Monday, June 05, 2006

Scoring Airlines for their wines in First and Business Class

I have been reading wine and travel magazines for longer than I care to remember, and I have never seen anyone do a thorough job of analyzing the quality of wines that are served by airlines in Business and First Class.

In the next few months, I am going to put up a few airline wine lists and I propose a score that is based solely on price. Generally speaking, an airline will serve four classes of wine: Champagne, white table wine, red table wine, and a dessert wine.

What I propose to do is to take the most expensive wine in each category, get the best estimate of its retail value in the United States, add the four numbers together, and that will be the score. (If an airline does not serve Champagne or a dessert wine, it will receive zero for that category.)

Is this perfect? Not at all. For example, Virgin Atlantic is doing clever stuff these days. They have engaged the services of Berry Brothers and Rudd to select its wines, and many of the wines they serve are interesting wines from southern France. They are often wonderful wines, but the retail price is low so that will be reflected in the score I give.

Another flaw is that the plan is regrettably US-centric, but it is a world that I know. Also, the United States probably still offers a wider selection of wines than anywhere else in the world so it will be relatively easy to find the price although some wines will be hard to find at the retail level. (In Europe, it is hard to find good American wines, and countries that produce good wine tend to dominate their domestic markets.)

But at least it will allow readers to gain a general sense of how much an airline is putting into its wine selections. An airline that spends $250 on its top four wines is likely to be taking wine matters more seriously that an airline spending only $50.

Comments are invited as I would welcome the thoughts of anyone who can think of a better way of doing this.

I would love to hear comments on this approach.

As a matter of interest, when Bordeaux was classified in 1855, the only criterion used to rank the wines was price.


Anonymous said...

Rather simplistic and rewards lists based on perception rather than inherent quality. Nor does this assessment seek to recognise airlines that have dynamic wine programs ie those that rotate more frequently and feature a broader spectrum of producer profile. On many carriers wines remain on sectors for months on end which simply isn't good enough when many frequent flyers travel weekly these days.

Moyey said...

All true! The introduction makes the point that this is rather simplistic and far from perfect. But, as a consumer, I know that I would get better wine on Singapore Airlines than on Continental.

I would dearly love to perform an in-depth analysis of every airline, but I cannot afford to.


Anonymous said...


Can you give examples of airlines that would be rated unfairly using this system?


Anonymous said...

Not unfairly so much as a belief that an emphasis on label value is misconcieved from the outset.A wine lsit for an airline should be judeged across a number of criteria including diversity and range (ie domestic business should change much more frequently because passenegers travel much more frequently, whereas Interntaional should have greater range of wines ie because flights are longer). B

Blind tasting is THE great leveller and is the only way to judge wines themselves not by the label or price.

Anonymous said...

Best Airline wine lists.
Air New Zealand
American Airlines
British Airways
Cathay pacific
Qantas (2005 Cellars in the sky winner Best First AND Business Cellar)

Sounds like a lot but there are over 60 International carriers.