In a ‘Wine High Club’ series first, we’re featuring an airline for the 3rd time. We boarded Lufthansa for a much anticipated AdVINEture to Italy and Croatia with lofty expectations given our previous experience. With the amount of time and effort that is put into the airline’s wine selections each year, it should come as no surprise that we were duly impressed not only by the current wines being served, but also by the fact that we have yet to come across a duplicate wine selection given our frequency flying with this airline.
We dug a little more into Lufthansa’s selection process, the basis of which is to balance between what their customers are thirsting for, and current trends in the wine world.
Their approach begins with reviewing suggestions annually from trade journals, trade fairs, and wine tastings worldwide, along with recommendations via sommeliers and other wine professionals. Upon distilling that information down to a manageable number, approximately 30-35 invitations are sent out to individual wineries to submit a bid.
Deciding which wines to accept falls on the shoulders of a panel of wine experts that taste the wines blind and score them based on an agreed point system to determine their quality.
Consideration also allows for the fact that a wine’s taste can be altered by altitude. As a result, wines with reduced acidity, fewer tannins, and some residual sweetness tend to fare better with the judges.
Our plane was a Boeing 747-400, an iconic aircraft in aviation that is a rarity these days given there are just 24 that remain active. Of those, only 10 are used as regular passenger jets, most notably by Lufthansa.
The business class configuration allows for a total of 67 business class seats. We were lucky enough to be among the 22 in the upper deck, making our journey feel not only more secluded, but also wonderfully quiet which was particularly appreciated for our overnight flight.
Now entering its 25th year in service, the 747-400 is starting to show its age in style and design but certainly wasn’t any less comfortable than its newer counterparts that we’ve experienced.
The biggest difference is the fact that the seats themselves aren’t in the ‘pod’ style so if you’re not travelling with a companion, it’s less individualized than more current business class offerings.
But the seats lie-flat, and the seclusion of the upper deck combined with the excellent service on board was more than enough to make the difference inconsequential as far as we were concerned.
With their recent unveiling of what they’re calling ‘business class restaurant service’ on long-haul flights, Lufthansa is focusing on a more personalized overall experience in terms of timing of meals and snacks or any other requests a passenger might have at 30,000 feet.
As we’ve come to expect with Lufthansa, we were offered a selection of wine that was quite varied both in varieties and region.
We began our journey with a glass of the “D” de Devaux Champagne.
Deveaux is a house we’d heard of but had never tasted before.
Like Veuve Clicquot, Devaux has a widow to thank for its success, but we’ll delve deeper into that story in a future article. The “D” is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from various vintages that is overall fresh and creamy. The freshness makes it enjoyable on its own as an aperitif, while the creaminess allows it to pair well with food, in this case a sesame crusted ahi tuna appetizer.
For the white wines, the choice was a Riesling from the Mosel in Germany, a white blend of Viura and Airen from Spain, and a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
We opted to taste the 2021 KALLFELZ Riesling and the 2021 Bodegas Fontana La Estafeta Vendimia Selecionada.
Both were very good, but both fared better with food given their levels of acidity.
The reds were no less varied with a selection that included a Bordeaux from France, a merlot from Argentina and a Shiraz from Australia. Sadly (particularly since it was a 2015), they had run out of the Bordeaux. We tried the 2018 Kaiken Ultra Merlot, passed on the Shiraz and opted for the ‘substitute’ wine on offer which was the Bodegas Volver Paso a Paso Tempranillo/Syrah blend from Spain.
The wine of the flight for both of us (other than the champagne) was the 2018 Kaiken Ultra Merlot.
The fruit spends 12 months in barrel and another 6 months in the bottle and being able to drink such a textured wine really benefitted from age. The tannins had softened considerably and it paired perfectly with the tenderloin of beef on the menu.
As with their approach to wine, the onboard cuisine is also a product of what customers are craving and what’s popular among top up-and-coming chefs. One trend that never goes out of style is a menu based on seasonality and that is Lufthansa’s primary aim with inflight meals, changing its menu every two months.
Overall, Lufthansa continues to be our choice for a long-haul flight. Given it’s track record so far, we won’t be surprised if it warrants a fourth Wine High Club feature in future.