Two years. That’s how long it’s been since our last AdVINEture outside of North America. One of the last flights we took before the global pandemic ground international travel to a halt was a return flight from Europe on Lufthansa. As we anxiously prepared to travel outside the borders of Canada once again, navigating the myriad of requirements leading up to departure day proved the most challenging aspect: Are mixed vaccines accepted? Do we need a PCR or Antigen test and within what time frame? Is quarantine required? Where can we get our PCR test in destination? Do we need the new Federal Vaccine passport?
Almost two years to the day of our last overseas flight, we stepped aboard Lufthansa once again to find a much-needed steadiness amongst all the change swirling around us. One thing that has clearly remained steadfast since our travel hiatus is that Lufthansa hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to its five-star reputation.
Our flight was once again on Lufthansa’s flagship aircraft, the Airbus A350-900, one of the world’s most advanced and environmentally friendly planes for long-haul flights. It produces 25% fewer emissions, uses 25% less kerosene, and is considerably quieter on take-off.
We boarded the Airbus and the extra space and comfort we enjoyed with business class certainly helped ease any anxiety leading up to our first big trip during a pandemic.
Masks are mandatory in the airport and onboard, and we found everyone to be extremely respectful about not only wearing them, but also providing as much physical distancing as was possible. Being able to fly business class thanks to a well-timed seat sale is a privilege not lost on us and made that much more of a difference given the current environment.
As we had learned from previous travels with Lufthansa, the seats were comfortable lie-flats, and the entertainment system provided a wide range of options from movies and television to podcasts and audio books. Probably the most appreciated feature was the noise canceling headsets that helped put us sound asleep shortly after take-off.
Feeling rested and hungry we sipped a glass of their Champagne offering, the Castelnau NV Brut Reserve while we perused the menu. It was the same Champagne offered two years ago but on our return flight it was replaced with the NV Jacquart Mosaique, one we had never tried before. It’s difficult to say which we preferred more as both were medium bodied, had great mouthfeel, and would be well paired with the starters.
We had noted in our review two years ago that Lufthansa offered a surprising (but welcome) variety of choices when it came to their wine list. To date, we’ve found that most airlines with a world-class wine region in their home country opt to focus on wines from that region almost exclusively. This time around there was one less selection of white and red (3 options for each vs 4) but more than enough choice to please a range of palates.
For the whites, Germany featured in two of the 3 options with a 2018 Cuvée Pfalz from Lergenmüller and the 2018 Kilian Hunn Riesling. The former is made up of a blend of the typical grape varieties found in the Pfalz region—Silvaner, Muskateller, Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and the latter features Germany’s most famous variety offering. The list of whites was rounded out with a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa’s La Motte winery.
The red wine list was particularly notable with a 2010 Chateau Bouscaut Grand Cru Classe, a 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin from Bouchard Pere et Fils from Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively and the 2014 Fuentespina Reserva Special from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region. Being able to have wines with this amount of age was appreciated as it’s been said that altitude can make a wine seem unpleasantly sharp with tannins.
The food menu also reflected a broad range of seasonal choices which are revised every two months on long haul flights. Lufthansa continues to work with Markus del Monego, renowned wine critic and one of just 400 Masters of Wine in the world. The benefit of this consultation is that each wine is clearly thoughtfully selected to make ideal pairings with the dining menu.
Despite all the jokes about plane meals (or maybe because of them?), food and wine menus have come a long way in recent years. Collaborations with celebrity chefs and Masters of Wine or Sommeliers has resulted in a radical improvement to in-flight dining featuring creative and healthy food options combined with well-curated wine lists. For the foreseeable future, flying is going to continue to include some added stress as we navigate living in a global pandemic, but at least the journey itself can provide a much-needed diversion.
After the long security lines, multiple PCR tests, and securing proof of vaccines, we were asked by friends “are all the hurdles to travel worth it?”. For us, it’s an unequivocal “yes”. Even better if you can fly with Lufthansa.