I recall many years ago seated next to me on a trip to HongKong was a renowned wine judge. During the trip he only drank champagne. So I asked him why?
He explained that wine does not taste the same as on the ground because most aircraft cabins have low relative humidity, which dries out the nasal receptors, resulting in a diminished sense of smell and taste. He said as a wine judge it would play havoc with his palate and ability to recall the sensory of wines from around the world. Champagne on the other hand does not change in the air.
This got me thinking and investigation reveals that like food, wine will not taste the same as on the ground.
The best-performing wines on board are varietals because they are the most aromatic. Hardness, astringency and bitterness are accentuated in the air, so avoid selecting acidic or tannic styles from the list. The best are bright and vibrant wines showing freshness and lifted fruit. Do not discount riesling, Australian shiraz with its soft, ripe tannins, or a contemporary pinot noir.
The more you can smell, the more you can taste. Do whatever you can to increase the aromatics in the wine you are given. Glasses are often smaller than in a top restaurant, so gently swirl the wine to increase its exposure to oxygen. Red wines unfortunately are often served relatively cool, so allow the wine to warm up in the glass by gently caressing it.
Your best strategy is to drink less, but drink better and stay hydrated. Hard to do I know when confronted with the airlines top selected wines from around the world. Because we all dehydrate during a long flight, drinking plenty of water is a good strategy. One glass of red followed by one glass of water!
But how will drinking affect how you feel on the flight—and after you land?
Lets look at some technical stuff and proven by research.
A common concern when it comes to in-flight drinking is altitude. When you are at higher-than-usual altitudes, it becomes more difficult to transport oxygen throughout the body. Its called relatively hypoxic— meaning you are at a lower level of oxygen than your body is used to. What the body does is respond to that—it increases your respiratory rate a little bit, it increases some of the metabolic responses, it increases your heart rate a little bit to deliver more blood.
I hope I am not scaring you with all this!
Mostly you’re not going to feel the hard-core effects of severe altitudes when you fly—many people don’t even notice a difference. Thats because airlines do a pretty good job of maintaining a pressure in the cabin that allows for safety from extreme altitude issues, In general, flying at 35,000 feet is not going to have an impact much more than, say, 5,000 or 6,000 feet.
Combined with a lower oxygen pressure (even in a pressurised cabin), you might ‘feel’ more drunk, given that your body has to work a little harder to carry oxygen to vital tissues, combined with the sedating effects of alcohol, Despite this, in reality, you aren’t any more ‘drunk’ than you would be at sea level—you have the same blood-alcohol concentration.
I hope you are still with me.
You know how sometimes the cabin feels stale? That’s because the filtered air that’s circulated throughout the cabin holds less humidity than what we’re used to at sea level. This dryness essentially sucks the moisture out of the body.
You can lose more fluid while you are flying, to the tune of about 150mL over an eight-hour flight. Additionally, the dry air can make you feel thirsty. All in all, flying tends to make people a little more dehydrated.
If you combine alcohol plus altitude’s effects on your hydration status, it will absolutely impact how you feel the next day.
Though altitude effects and dehydration are certainly important to keep in mind, they don’t need to stop you from ordering the next time the flight attendant passes by with the drink cart. Just be mindful of why you’re craving that glass of wine.
Airlines that do not serve alcohol.
Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Turkish (domestic) Airlines, EgyptAir, Kuwait Airways, Pakistan International Airlines, Iran Air and Iraqi Airways. I have no further comment.
I must go now because the hostess is approaching with the wine list and I intend to give it a nudge…followed by water of course!
What wines have you enjoyed in the air? Tell me.