While the airport experience has steadily declined over the last decade (hello, insanely in-depth security checks and arriving at your gate two hours early!), the comfort of first class has only improved. Singapore Airlines, one of the most expensive carriers in the world, offers a luxurious, albeit unofficial, champagne tasting at 36,000 feet.
Gary Walther of Forbes got to experience the $12,000 round-trip flight from New York to Singapore, noting that he was served bubbly by an in-flight sommelier, Stephanie Lim. She is one of about 100 crew members who have been certified by the United Kingdom-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust.
She poured Dom Perignon for Walther, who pointed out that the airline’s decision to serve the latest 2006 release of the Dom over Krug Grande Cuvèe is “the luxury veneer of a very complicated operation.” Though business class passengers are offered a different selection of bubbly, they’re still getting a sip of luxury with a Charles Heidsieck. Business Insider reports that Singapore is one of the few airlines to even offer more than one brand of Champagne (on every international flight I’ve taken, it’s been either “red” or “white”), and you can try both to see which bubbly is more on-brand for you.
The airline employs Hermann Freidank, a professionally trained chef who purchases 20,000 bottles of champagne each year just for first class, spending around $16 million annually on wine. He also organizes a tasting panel in Singapore twice a year to create a short list of wines for the future.
Dom and Krug store bottles for Singapore Airlines until they need to restock, when the bubbly is shipped to a storage facility that holds almost 500,000 bottles. Freidank told Walther that he’d love to be able to offer other exclusive bottlings, like Cristal, but these vintners can’t fulfill the large amount of wine needed by the airline.
At first thought, it might seem silly to drink expensive booze when you’re high up in the air, since cabin pressure can affect your taste buds. When the airline was deciding which champagne to feature, they built a pressurized tasting room on the ground so they could simulate how it would taste thousands of feet in the air. At this level, there’s less oxygen to absorb the bubbly, making it difficult for passengers to make it through the entire menu of in-flight champagne offerings. Only one has succeeded. I am 100 percent willing to take on this challenge.