As a travel magazine editor, I’m used to attending all sorts of odd events when brands roll out new programs. I’m not used to stumbling upon them accidentally though, especially at 30,000 feet in the air, as I did last week aboard a flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco. My business-class cabin was selected as part of a first-ever test group for KLM’s new wine list.
There was some logic to this serendipity: The husband-wife duo behind KLM’s food and drink menus, sommelier Thérèse Boer and her husband (and chef of three-Michelin-star Restaurant De Librije outside of Amsterdam) Jonnie Boer, wanted to taste the contenders in the air and this flight was part of their itinerary for a Hawaiian family vacation.
While Jonnie prepared small bites, like goat cheese lollipops and pickled langoustines, to go along with the pours, Thérèse guided passengers through a blind tasting of three whites and three reds. It seemed like a powerful batch of wines, I thought, but I chalked it up mostly to my lack of sleep and crystallizing jet lag. Then I talked to Boer. “I had these same wines this morning at 8AM before we took off,” she explained, “And I have to say: they taste completely different now as I drink them with you. I’m finding that the aromas are stronger in the air than they were downstairs.” Altitude and humidity, B.S. as it sounds, really do affect the way our tastebuds flicker in the air.
As for the winners, you’ll soon find them on KLM’s flights this fall: a very savory and grassy Holy Snail Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from the Loire and the Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2013, a big, funky, Bordeaux-like red from Chile’s Coastal Colchagua region.