QANTAS wine list overhaul – Neil Perry’s influence sees 40% new wines added to the sky

EXCLUSIVE: It’s the biggest indicator yet that Neil Perry’s QANTAS team of sommeliers mean business; QANTAS has revealed exclusively to The Wine Wankers that 40% of the 270 wines chosen for the airline’s new wine list have never flown in First or Business class before.  Oenophile fliers, those who choose their airlines according to the wines being served, will no doubt be salivating at the news.  Exceptionally small producers, those with production runs of as little as 250 cases per wine, will now be matched with Perry’s foods in not only First Class, but even in Business.

Over the course of four days in July, 1,200 wines were tasted blind by a team of Rockpool sommeliers, headed by Sebastian Crowther, one of only two Master Sommeliers in Australia.

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QANTAS is riding high after recent news it has finally turned its fortunes around.  The battleground for the skies is tough, and food and wine as ‘travelling entertainment’ is seen as big business.

“We feel honoured that not one, but two of our wines have been selected by QANTAS to be served on their International Business Class flights,” said Adrian Santolin of the boutique husband and wife label, Santolin Wines.  Adrian is a typical example of one of Qantas’ newbies.  Only 250 cases of his Yarra Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were produced.  You’d think that with such small quantities these wines would be a First Class only, but you’d be wrong – they are slated for Business Class.

QANTAS gets away with this by not offering a wine list in Business Class.  Each flight they offer two whites and two reds.  Chardonnay and a Cabernet or Shiraz are always a staple, but it’s with the other two wines the QANTAS/Rockpool somms are being allowed to spread their wings.  Curio wines such as ‘Wine Makers Daughter’ Borrodell Gewurztraminer 2013 or Jericho 2015 Adelaide Hills Tempranillo will be the alternative wine.  A welcome relief for people suffering Sav Blanc fatigue.

These smaller production wines won’t last forever, and they won’t be on all routes, instead they will last for one month on selected routes, with the entire network being catered for.  This innovation in flexibility has been introduced to cater for people who fly every couple of weeks for business, where food and wine is their passion.  QANTAS also insists on changing its menus every 5-6 weeks according to seasonal produce availability.

If Australian wine isn’t your thing because you taste it every single day, QANTAS may not be your Nirvana (unless you’re happy to drink your body weight in Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005, that is!).   You’ll be searching out a wine program that celebrates international wines.  As a comparison, we spoke to Emirates, which now codeshares with Qantas on many flights out of Australia.

Emirates First and Business Class passengers

At the heart of Emirates’ cellar are wines from Bordeaux, accounting for almost half of the airline’s total wine portfolio. Château Lafite, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton-Rothschild, are all up for grabs in First and Business. The airline currently has over 1.2 million bottles of wines aging in its cellar in Burgundy.  Some of these vintages will only be ready for consumption in a decade’s time.

While QANTAS has the exceptional Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, Emirates is not only serving Dom Pérignon Vintage Rosé 2003 in First Class, it has now introduced a Champagne pairing menu of six canapés, which complements the revered Champagne (think cured duck with saffron poached peach; walnut baguette with persian feta cheese, fresh fig, and truffle infused honey, and, wild smoked salmon and lemon and cumin cream cheese on norlander bread).

On any given day, over 60 different wines, champagnes and ports, sourced from 11 countries, are served onboard Emirates to passengers in all classes.  It too addresses palate fatigue by offering passengers smaller parcels of wine.

“We could have taken the easy way out – just do the maths for how many bottles we’d need in each cabin class over a year, then put it up for tender. But with the scale of our operations, this would limit our choices as not many producers can offer the quantities we’d need, at the quality standards that we’d want,” said Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline.

The airline even allows you to check the wines on your flight prior to boarding.  Check out their app here.

What are your thoughts on food and wine at 30,000 feet?  QANTAS and Emirates are only two airlines, which other airlines are doing an exceptional job and why.  We look forward to reading your comments below.



  1. I’m glad to hear such large airlines are ready to offer the wines of small producers on their flights even for a limited period. What an opportunity for the small producer to increase their brand recognition. There will be some discerning wine drinkers aboard these flights who may be willing to try other wines from the same vineyards in the future. Maybe the limited stock will also make some of the wines into classics which again can only be good for the producer and forthe airline that stocks their produce.


  2. I’m all for the small producer too and this can only be a good thing for Qantas customer. Better still, Qantas frequent flyers can further benefit from the Emirates extensive international wine list. A win win for Qantas customers!


  3. I am always happy to see new and interesting wines when I fly. Though I don’t select my airlines based on this, my selection has more to do with who offers me the most comfort and the best opportunity for upgrades from Business to First on international flights.


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