Business Traveller readers enjoyed a superb wine tasting and dinner in partnership with Singapore Airlines.
Business Traveller welcomed readers and guests to the Royal Automobile Club in London’s Pall Mall on 26 September for an exclusive wine tasting and dinner in association with Singapore Airlines, which won five gold medals including Best Overall Cellar at the most recent Cellars in the Sky awards.
The evening kicked off with a drinks reception where readers were able to mingle and share stories about their recent travelling adventures. Guests filtered through to the regal Committee Room at 7pm for a sit-down wine-paired meal, where they were greeted by Business Traveller’s managing director Julian Gregory and Singapore Airlines’ general manager UK and Ireland, Mohamed Rafi Mar.
Mar discussed Singapore Airlines’ commitment to culinary excellence, world-class wines and spirits, and unparalleled hospitality from the cabin crew (who consistently win the award for Best Cabin Crew in the annual Business Traveller Reader Awards). He also introduced the airline’s in-house team of wine consultants: Jeannie Cho Lee, Michael Hill Smith and Oz Clarke, who are tasked with blind tasting more than 1,000 bottles each year to curate the expert wine list of 20-30 labels presented to passengers.
Mar additionally revealed that all cabin crew are given specific wine and food training, with a select few going on to higher training to become dedicated air sommeliers, bringing a professional wine service to the skies.
After the welcome address, the evening’s wine tasting commenced and was hosted by Oz Clarke, who offered detailed insights into the vintages presented while taking guests on an entertaining journey of his career.
Clarke revealed that as a consultant for Singapore Airlines, he’s constantly looking for new inspirations and keeping an eye on evolving consumer tastes, reacting to events such as deciphering how Covid has changed palates, while having acute knowledge and relationships with all of the key wine-producing regions from Australia to Bordeaux. This all has to be done with altitude in mind, too.
The first course of chicken with wild mushroom terrine and a saffron pear chutney was paired with a selection of three white wines:
Piper-Heidsieck Brut Vintage, 2014, Champagne, France
Tasting notes: The distinctive colour was caused by a late surge of summer in 2014 that ripened the grapes to perfection. Clarke also commented how special it is to find a vintage Piper-Heidsieck in a business class cabin.
Craggy Range Te Muna Road Martinborough, 2022, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
Tasting notes: Clarke believes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best wines to drink in the air thanks to the sharp, zesty flavour of the green grape. New Zealand’s topography creates the ideal cool, dry climate for the grapes, which has propelled the wines to worldwide prominence, despite the fact that the first vines were only planted 50 years ago.
Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay, 2019, Yarra Valley
Tasting notes: Clarke revealed Australia’s Yarra Valley, a 45-minute drive outside Melbourne, was originally called Australia’s Burgundy thanks to its cool climate and the fact that it was settled by the Swiss, who identified the ideal conditions to create delicate, refined flavours. This was later emulated by Phil Sexton, who sought to create “purity and finesse”, as witnessed in this wine.
The main course featured a delicious roast rack of Southdown lamb with Boulangère potatoes and market vegetables, served with mint and a redcurrant jus; or a vegetarian option of toasted barley risotto, charred aubergine and wild mushrooms.
This was paired with two reds:
Teusner “The Riebke” Shiraz, Barossa Valley, 2019, Australia
Tasting notes: Clarke said Australian Shiraz is one of the most popular wines onboard Singapore Airlines, given its rich, fruity flavours. Kym Teusner founded his winery in 2001 with the objective of preserving the oldest vines in the world, and succeeded in creating a thrilling flavour featuring bursts of blackcurrant, plum and dark chocolate. Indeed, it was a double Gold winner in the latest Cellars in the Sky awards.
Chateau Libran, Bordeaux Blend, 2016, France
Tasting notes: Bordeaux was the birthplace of modern red wine, and this is a beautifully layered example. Clarke pointed out that thanks to the delays of Covid, Singapore Airlines passengers will be able to enjoy an exceptionally aged eight-year-old vintage in business class next year.
Dessert consisted of an apple tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream, followed by coffee and chocolates. This was paired with:
Morris Classic Liqueur Muscat, NV, Rutherglen, Australia
Tasting notes: Clarke outlined that there are various methods of creating sweet wines, from shrivelling grapes in the sun to allowing “noble rot” fungus to treat the skins. In this case, barrels are left to bake and ferment into a treacle-like substance, before being processed into this delicious sweet nectar.
Two prize draws on the night saw two lucky guests win a bottle of Hayman’s Gin, partners of Singapore Airlines since 2021, while seven guests took home a limited-edition aircraft model. Visit businesstravellerevents.com to learn more about the next event and register your interest.