A Mile-High Wine Tasting Experience on Board Air France

France is one of, if not the, most famous wine-making countries in the world with vintages that fetch some of the globe’s highest prices. So while on a trip from the U.S. to Paris aboard Air France, we decided to try some of the grands vins the airline pours for its premium passengers.

The selections are made by Olivier Poussier, an award-winning sommelier who oversees the entire Air Franc cellar. Our informal degustation actually began before the flight in Air France’s Graf Lounge at Boston Logan airport. There were just two reds and a white among the selections, all from France.

Chateau Beauregard-Ducourt 2010 Entre Deux Mers

This uncomplicated white wine comes from the Entre Deux Mers region of Bordeaux between the Gironde and Garonne rivers, and the whites here are predominantly blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. This wine is a little zippier than most with fresh, green herbaceous elements, and the characteristic regional flavors of tangy lemon and sun-kissed grapefruit. It would be great with seafood, or just on its own, chilled, as an aperitif.

Paul Jaboulet 2009 Parallele 45 Cote du Rhone Blend

A pretty standard pour (and one you can find at many grocery and wine stores in the U.S.), this wine is nonetheless a good choice for a casual drink before your flight, and Jaboulet is one of the Rhone’s most well known producers. In the glass, the wine is a lovely ruby color whose nose displays telltale notes of its Grenache (60%) /Syrah (40%) blend: dark berries, ripe plum, a dash of pepper and a slightly gamey note that suggests it would pair well with a simple roast chicken with rosemary potatoes.

Chateau Roustaing 2009 Reserve Aux Vielles Vignes Bordeaux

Another simple wine—just a Bordeaux Controle, meaning it didn’t merit special appellation labeling, and it actually comes from Entre Deux Mers as well rather than the region’s famed red appellations of Medoc, Pomerol and St. Emilion. Nothing too much to note here—the fruit notes were red and tart, and there was a slight taste of bitterness thanks to untamed tannins, but the wine was still fresh without too much oak. Good for a quick tipple.

Once onboard passengers were treated to...what else, a glass of Champagne? In this case, it was:

Henriot Champagne Brut Souverain

One of France’s venerable Champagne houses, founded in 1808, Henriot is a fixture on high-end wine lists the world over. This particular pour was the non-vintage Brut Souverain, a blend of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir. Despite lively bubbles and a mineral-driven crispness, there’s an overall rich texture that is enlivened by tropical fruit notes, as well as citrus, a touch of stone fruit for a juicy mouthfeel that gets you ready for a meal, or a transatlantic flight.

Grave Chateau Villa Bel-Air 2008 Bordeaux Blanc

Another white Bordeaux wine, this one comes from the Graves region, whose name derives from the gravelly soils found there. This winery, though not as well known, is actually owned by the family behind the famed Chateau Lynch-Bages in the Medoc’s Pauillac appellation where some of France’s best reds are produced. So, yeah, they kind of know what they’re doing. This wine is a blend that balances the crispness and food-friendly acidity of Sauvignon Blanc with the rounded mouthfeel and riper flavors of Semillon for an effect that pairs beautifully with fish dishes and the flight’s specialty entree, scallops with green curry and Madagascar lime with saffron rice and sugar-snap peas. The other main course option was pan-seared beef tournedos with green peppercorn, haricots verts and sautéed potatoes, so naturally it was necessary to try the two red options.

Crozes-Hermitage Les Meysonnier 2008 M. Chapoutier Vallee du Rhone

Crozes-Hermitage is the largest vineyard in the northern Rhone and is located on the river’s left (western) bank. This producer is a pioneer in organic and biodynamic viticulture, not only within France but also in the global wine industry, and his efforts pay off in this full-bodied but playful Syrah. Purple fruit gives way to exotic spices and a slight burst of alcoholic vapor. It would pair perfectly with a hearty spring lamb stew with rosemary, olives and eggplant.

Haut Medoc Chateau Cantemerle 2006 Grand Cru Classe

Now we get to a wine from one of Bordeaux’s most venerable wineries, Chateau Cantemerle, which, though located in a bit of an odd spot between Margaux and the Garonne, has been producing sought-after wines since it was first classified as a grand cru in 1855. This one is no exception—present are the fine tannins, rounded flavors of cassis and supple texture of classic (Merlot-based) Margaux wines with a freshness that pairs well with meat dishes without overwhelming the food

For the cheese course and dessert, the options were myriad, including a pear eau-de-vie, unclassed Calvados and Armagnac, a nearly overpowering Tesseron Lot 90 “XO Selection” Cognac, and herbal Chartreuse Verte, and Graham’s Tawny 10 Year Port for those looking for a mellow way to end the meal and slip into a skyward slumber.

Eric Rosen

Eric Rosen lives in Los Angeles and writes about food, wine, travel and adventure... usually in some combination of the four. He regularly contributes to Los Angeles Confidential Magazine, Cond� Nast's HotelChatter and Jaunted, TravelAge West, Palate Press, Frontiers, Edge and Wandermelon. His work has also appeared in the L.A. Times. When he is not exploring the Los Angeles dining scene...(Read More)

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