You heard right, Qantas’ Sommelier in the Sky program has a little secret almost nobody knows about; that is, until now! During long haul flights, the airline’s sommeliers are more than happy to whisk passengers away from their seat and give them a private wine tasting in the galley, featuring wines being served on board that day. Business Class and First Class only?! Think again; even Economy Class passengers can ask for this ‘off the menu’ service.
Time permitting, the sommelier will take you through a series of wines in a blind tasting where they will impart their vast knowledge. For those people who hate being trapped in a metal tube for 14 hours, this kind of activity definitely breaks up the trip and makes it one of the most memorable flights you will ever have. Economy passengers, play your cards right, and the sommelier may even slip a few business and first class wines into the mix to see if you can taste the difference.
During my tasting of 15 wines (admittedly they went a bit overboard because I’m a wine writer), I stasted a sensational Economy Class wine from Tatachilla alongside First and Business Class wines from SC Pannell, Mt Horrocks, Clonakilla, St Johns Road, Penfolds Grandfather Port, and a small Champagne producer called Duval-Leroy.
Here are some facts about Qantas’ Sommelier in the Sky program
- Just like Qantas chef Neil Perry has tried to replicate the restaurant experience in the sky, so too is the idea behind the Sommelier in the Sky program. It doesn’t matter if you’re in First, Business or Economy, you have equal access to the sommelier to ask about food and wine matching!
- To become a Sommelier in the Sky takes 3 days of intensive training for Qantas flight attendant. This culminates in an all-day exam which includes a blind tasting, an 80 question exam and a practical skills test.
- At the moment Qantas is recruiting 55 new sommeliers from the 500 London based crew to further boost its ranks. There are approximately 200 cabin crew currently trained as on-board sommeliers. Over 2000 cabin crew have also completed an introductory, intermediate or advanced level of wine training
- Since Qantas had its wine list overhaul, the wines are finally filtering on to the planes. What does this mean to the everyday flier? Lots of smaller producers are being given a go, as well as grape varieties that would never usually be seen on board Qantas. For example, the very tasty Oliver’s Taranga Fiano from McLaren Vale (shout out to winemaker and friend of The Wine Wankers, Corrina Wright!).
- And what if you don’t like drinking Australian wine? ….because that’s all Qantas serves (apart from Champagne). Since relocating to Sweden four months ago, I’ve noticed something strange. Not everyone loves, or indeed understands, Australian wine (shock, horror!!). These people believe good wine only comes from France, Germany, Italy or Spain – old world region regions that are internationally famous. For these people, the sommelier in the sky is essential. They will ask them what their preference is, and then suggest a wine that is similar to what they are used to. According to my flight’s excellent sommelier, Jeremie Leroux, all they need is some background info on the wine and a taste, and they are quickly converted.
What has your experience been like flying? How important are the wines being served when choosing an airline to fly with?
Sidenote: The Wine Wankers paid for their own Qantas ticket!