Savouring Success
Business Traveller India|June-July 2019
Savouring Success

We announce the best airline wines in the skies

Becky Ambury
The bottles have been uncorked, the contents swirled and sampled, the scores counted, and it’s now time to reveal the winners of our annual Cellars in the Sky airline wine awards.

Over two heady days in December, a crack team of some of the finest palates known to the wine world convened to find the finest bottles served on board business and first class last year. Tucked away in a room along a warren of corridors in London’s Grosvenor hotel, the intoxicating (quite literally) fragrance of wine heavy in the air, our judges – Sarah Abbott, Sam Caporn, Peter McCombie and head judge Charles Metcalfe – gradually sorted out the best from the rest.

For something that brings as much pleasure as wine, the judging process is a surprisingly serious business. I watch as the judges survey the line of bottles, the identity of each hidden by a black bag, and known only by a letter and two numbers (for example, FC1-2 means first class, flight one, airline two).

They silently fill their glasses, sniff the contents with vigour, take a decent sip and swish it around in their mouths, before depositing it into a spittoon. There is a lot of wine to get through and to swallow would be madness. Clipboards in hand, they jot down a few notes, sometimes returning to the same wine to reassess, focused and intent. A plate of water biscuits provides a bland counterpoint to the complex, often lingering, flavours of the wine.


Business Traveller’s Cellars in the Sky awards have been running since 1985. This year, 33 airlines entered, with judges sampling about 240 bottles to find the winners.

The competition is open to any carrier that serves wine in business or first class on mid- or long-haul, with each carrier able to enter two reds, two whites, a sparkling and a fortified or dessert wine from both cabins. Although they can compete in as many categories as they like, to be eligible for the overall award of Best Cellar they have to enter at least one red, white and sparkling wine.


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June-July 2019