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Cathay Pacific’s Wine Expert Explains Why Wine Never Tastes the Same Once You’ve Flown it

Bringing back a bottle of wine from your travels seems like a great idea in theory. But have you ever noticed that it doesn’t taste quite the same once you’re back home? An expert explains why:

Roy Moorfield, an international wine consultant with Cathay Pacific, works to develop the wines that are served in-flight. But whether it’s a glass on the plane or the bottle you’re bringing home, it won’t taste the same as if it had never left the ground due to the pressurized cabin and the vibrations of the plane.

Moorfield explains that when he first started as the Australian wine consultant for Cathay, they would have tastings on the ground. They’d narrow down a selection of 600 to 200 and then fly those to Hong Kong. But once in Hong Kong, the wines they liked the best were now the worst. Eventually, they realized that the dry cabin was to blame.

Cabins are generally 40 percent drier. Some are even drier even than the ground. This dries out the follicles in your nose, which goes to your olfactory gland (your sense of smell) and then affects your sense of taste. So your nose isn’t smelling as strongly as it should and thus dulls the taste of the wine. The cabin also brings out the bitterness of wine, so Moorfield picks wines that have a strong aroma and a lot of fruit for a better balance.

In addition, vibrations that you don’t feel on a plane in a cushioned seat shake up the wine, affecting more of the flavor, causing it to dull and emphasize the tannins and acidity. For this reason, some wines tend to appear in-flight more than others, especially those with tight flavor molecules such as Shiraz, select cabernet sauvignons, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and rose. Pinot noir is more delicate and requires a more careful selection process.

As for serving, reds and whites are both refrigerated, so you can let your red come to room temperature before you drink it—it won’t take long on a plane. And you don’t have to bother swirling, the plane does that for you.

As for your souvenir bottle, it can recover its flavor profile. Just let it set for several months before you break it open.

Comments are Closed.
not2017 February 22, 2018

The article's comments as to why wine tastes different in flight are well known. But wine tasting different after being brought home from where ever, nah, that's all baloney. So, many things contribute to how a wine tastes, saying that there after effects of it being flown, that is really, very contrived.

redanman February 22, 2018

Total hooey. Let the wines sit after you bring them home, don't drink then right away.

high_flyer February 22, 2018

This article is all over the place. The quoted expert seems to be talking a lot more about wines served in flight vs just traveling with them. Sure I can buy the air in the cabin ya different but this is a sealed bottle. Slight changes in humidity don’t have long term effects.

robsaw February 17, 2018

The part about vibrations sounds like complete conjecture. Wine is shipped by air/ground/rail and aircraft - all sorts of vibration; just doesn't affect taste when the facts are unknown to the wine "expert".