Cellars in the Sky 2019: Best airline wines revealed

24 Feb 2020 by BusinessTraveller
Cellars in the Sky

The winners of Business Traveller’s Cellars in the Sky Awards 2019 have been announced, with Malaysia Airlines taking the Gold medal for Best Overall Cellar.

The annual awards, which recognise the best business and first class wines served by airlines around the world, were presented on Monday evening at The Langham hotel in London by Charles Metcalfe, co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge.

Qantas was awarded Gold in the Best First Class Cellar category, with Cathay Pacific awarded Silver, and All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Singapore Airlines awarded joint Bronze.

Malaysia Airlines won Gold for Best Business Class Cellar, with Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand jointly taking Silver, and Aer Lingus taking Bronze.

Business Traveller magazine’s Cellars in the Sky Awards has been running since 1985.

In 2019, 35 airlines entered, with the judges – masters of wine Sarah Abbott, Tim Atkin and Peter McCombie, journalist and wine writer Kathryn McWhirter and head judge Charles Metcalfe –  blind tasting more than 250 bottles to find the winners.

The event was kindly sponsored by Champagne house Duval-Leroy

Cellars in the Sky 2019 awards presentation

ANA won Best First Class Red (for its Domaine David Duband, Nuit-Saint-Georges Les Pruliers 1er cru 2017, Burgundy, France), while Air New Zealand won Best Business Class Red (Brennan B2, 2016, Queenstown, Central Otago, New Zealand).

Qantas won Best First Class White (Shaw and Smith Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Adelaide Hills, Australia), with Best Business Class White going to another Australian wine, this time served by ANA (Stella Bella Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Semillon 2018, Forest Grove, Margaret River, Australia).

This year’s awards saw the introduction of a rosé category. Best First Class Rosé went to American Airlines (Château Gassier Le Pas du Moine Côtes de Provence Rosé 2018, Sainte-Victoire, France). Best Business Class Rosé was awarded to Air New Zealand (Two Rivers Isle of Beauty Rosé 2018, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, New Zealand).

In the battle for best bubbly, Cathay Dragon took Gold for Best First Class Sparkling (Champagne Rare Millesimé 2002, Piper-Heidsieck, France), while Malaysia Airlines took the top spot for Best Business Class Sparkling (Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007, France).

Emirates took Gold medals in both Best First Class Fortified/Dessert (Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013, South Africa) and Best Business Class Fortified/Dessert (Dow’s Colheita Port 1992, Douro Valley, Portugal).

Oneworld was named Best Airline Alliance, while Singapore Airlines was judged to have both the Best-Presented First Class Wine List and Best-Presented Business Class Wine List.

See the full list of shortlisted wines and tasting notes here. 

Cellars in the Sky 2019 awards presentation

Blind tastings took place in November 2019 at London’s Amba Hotel Grosvenor in Victoria.

The judges paired up and tasted half of the entries for each flight. Once they had tasted them independently, they convened in their pairs and compared findings, scoring the wines out of 100. Scores were then averaged to get a fair mark.

Team A then picked their favourite wines of the flight and put them up against Team B’s selection, with the quartet then re-tasting the final selection and awarding Gold, Silver, Bronze and sometimes Highly Commended.

“By the time we get to the final top winners, they’re bloody good wines and they’ve been through the mill to get there,” head judge Charles Metcalfe commented.

Duval Leroy

The competing airlines were Aegean, Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Aircalin, Air Canada, Air Italy, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, American Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Gulf Air, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Jetblue, Jetstar, Korean Air, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, TAP Air Portugal, Virgin Atlantic and Westjet.

Readers are invited to join us at the Business Travel Show at Olympia London on Wednesday February 26 and Thursday February 27 from 1400 to 1500 to try some of the winning wines.

For more information and images for publication, please contact Kirsty Clark at [email protected] or tel +44 (0)20 7821 2700. 

Business Traveller subscribers can read more about the judging process here:

Cellars in the sky: Top-flight vintages

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