Next time the trolley comes round, ask for a high altitude wineby Barry Smith / June 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
I recently flew to Istanbul and back on British Airways to test the flavours of food and wine at high altitude with a journalist from Women’s Health. Many factors affect the appreciation of wine at 30,000 feet but wine buyers for the airlines are becoming quite skilled at selecting those that work well in flight. How do they do it, and what are the principles underlying success and failure?
When flying at high altitude, the dry atmosphere—which greatly reduces our ability to perceive aroma—low cabin pressure, cold temperatures and vibrations mean that even the best wines may not perform as expected. In addition, recent research has demonstrated that white noise in the ears suppresses the tongue’s ability to detect basic tastes like sweet and salty. At around 80 decibels—the level of noise on board a commercial aircraft in flight—the effect on sweet and salty is quite marked. This may be one reason why passengers complain about aeroplane meals, despite the efforts some airlines have put into improving the food. The solution is to wear noise-cancelling headphones, which will do a lot to revive your plate and your wine.