I hate flying… Let me rephrase that, I f&$#ing hate flying! I apologize for the language but I thought I needed to really drive that point home. I am 6’6” and if you have flown a time or two, you can imagine that flying for me is less than comfortable. So, when I was preparing to take off a few weeks ago on one of my many trips to France this year, I was pretty excited that I was about to turn my seat in to a bed, and stretch my legs as far as the eye can see. Reality check. Even the beds in a Business Class seat are not quite made for freaks like me, but with a slight curve at the hips I could fully extend and that was absolutely awesome. BUT WAIT! The wine list is completely different up here in the illustrious land of the rich and famous, and I must try them all! This is where my journey through Air Canada’s business class wines began, and the following is my humble review of their selection.
First of all, I feel like I should mention that the wines in the business class area on an Air Canada flight come in full sized bottles. This may not seem important, but I always find it significant for first impressions, and to be honest, “mini” bottles are rarely the best of the best.
Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or
First of all, it was nice to see a name like Drappier on the list. Even though they are still a very large Champagne house, they are not nearly as common to see on the cooperate lists similar to that of Air Canada’s. For starters, Carte d’Or is Drappier’s introductory NV Cuvée. With that being said, I was pleased with its presentation. It is made with 75% Pinot Noir, 10% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay, a rather classic blend of Champagnes 3 most common grape varieties. It is a dry champagne labeled Brut, and has a 7g dosage, so it is on the dryer side of Brut which is exactly how I personally prefer my bubbly. There is nothing overly remarkable about the aroma or palate of this wine, if you have had the entry level NV cuvée from other large houses than you have tasted something similar. I will say that it is on the more complex side of those wines and therefore I would grade it a little higher personally. I enjoyed the aroma of ripe pears and hints of cherry, along with the nicely integrated faint aroma of a fresh biscuit. An admiral Champagne that I give props to Air Canada for selecting, above some of the similar options within the same category.
A Portela, Beade Primacia - Treixadura – Ribeiro, Spain
This is where my eyes started to perk up a bit. Seeing a treixadura on an Air Canada wine list was rather surprising, I mean, how many of you have actually heard of treixadura? So, to clear that up, treixadura is a white grape varietal heavily planted in the Galician wine regions of Ribeiro and Rias Baixas in Spain as well as Vinho Verde in Portugal. It is usually rather light and citrus driven and primarily used as a blending grape. Now that you know what it is, here is what I thought about this particular wine… Meh. I don’t want to sound be insulting because I actually enjoyed the wine, but as expected when tasting an unoaked treixadura, there simply isn’t much to comment on. It was lemony fresh and there were hints of peach with a light and zesty flavour on the palate repeating the lemon once again. What I will say, is that I absolutely love that this was the option instead of the token Pinot Grigio, as I am sure that there were at least one or two of them on the final tasting panel. Overall a solid choice for a refreshing and fruit forward white wine.
Tawse Chardonnay – Niagara Peninsula
Ohhh Canadaaa! If there is going to be a Canadian representative on this list I am happy that it’s Tawse. I am from a city a few minutes down the highway from Canadas largest wine region, and the wines of Tawse gave me faith in our small but rapidly expanding wine industry years ago. With their very well made Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the slopes of the Beamsville Bench, I invested the next few years of my life in to this region. Winemaker Paul Pender is a believer in Biodynamic vineyard practices (farming for crazy people that involves burying manure filled horns and following the moon calendar among other things… But it makes perfect sense and it works). His top releases are always highly awarded and regarded for good reason. This Chardonnay is their entry level release, and in my experience, is always reliable. This was no different. All of the niceties of Chardonnay are present leading with honeycrisp apples and a lemon citrus with hints of toast from its time spent in barrel. The palate is balanced with the tell-tale cool climate Chardonnay zip and overall serves as a good choice for a Chardonnay. It gives Air Canada their “we’re Canadian” badge as well, although I like to believe that it is good enough at the price point to make it on the list no matter what the bias.
White Wines: B+ One more solid choice would have pushed this to an A.
Prunotto Fiulot – Barbera d’Asti – Italy
This one is not so obscure. Many people may know Barbera, as well as many people may not. It is Piemonte’s most planted red grape varietal, and while nebbiolo may be the most well-known and the most sought after on the global market, barbera can offer some delicious opportunities, and this wine was rather tasty. The nose was fruit forward with hints of spice. The aroma was led with an obvious ripeness like wild berries that were picked in late summer, but the palate was rather fresh and tart. The typical barbera acidity was exactly where it should be, and this wine was the perfect partner for my cheese plate. Once again, a good pick and one that I have nothing bad to say about, although I did feel like finding a bottle of this to put away for a year or two, as I felt there was something hiding in the background.
Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Franc – Mendoza – Argentina
Once again, Air Canada has my attention. A Cabernet franc from Argentina? Well I have tasted one or two before, it is a very interesting choice. If you know me, you know my obsession with Cabernet Franc, so I may be a bit hard to please. It turns out that that last sentence is very true, I was not overly excited by this wine, and upon further inspection (looking at the bottle) found out it was highly rated by Decanter, and I mean really highly rated, it won the “Best in Show” award in 2017. I did not dislike this wine, it was okay, but to go out and find an Argentinian Cab Franc, I think it should at least be a little more interesting. Now as for the whole Decanter Awards thing, I usually don’t have many qualms with the ratings from Decanter, but this one was an absolute joke. Now, don’t let my disgust for the Decanter award cloud the judgement of this wine, please remember that I tasted it before I knew of this fallacy. It was well rounded and very fruit forward with the expected dark berries taking over being from Mendoza. There was a touch of savory herb and a hint of sweet spice leaning towards vanilla on the palate… I sense some oak chips, but not overdone and overall a nice wine. I will omit the Dacanter crime from my rating and say that this was a decent pick, but I don’t think it was necessary and feel like the Decanter thing may have been a bit of an influence.
Le Combal – Cahors – France
One of the surprisingly lesser known regions of France considering the surge in popularity for Argentinian Malbec, Cahors is the Old-World counterpart, and you can find some serious stunners here. Le Combal is a well-known producer in this region, and the wine was a great, classic example of Cahors Malbec. Dark coloured and very non-fruit forward as much of Cahors tends to be. This wine led with earthy, barn like aromas, as if you swung open a barn door on a warm day and then someone hit you in the face with a blueberry pie, while grandma was baking with anise. I hope that makes sense because that really is how this wine smelled. The palate was round and full, with firm tannins and a pleasant finish. The fruit was more tart and fresh in flavour than it was in aroma. A fantastic choice and also the wine that I decided to consume with my meal.
Red Wine: B+ - Could have been an A if not for the Decanter crime against wine awards.
There was also a single port available. Dow’s 2011 LBV. I am a fan of LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) and this was typical of the style. I have to comment that it served as an absolutely stunning pairing with their chocolate cake and dark berry compote. In fact, this was perhaps one of the more memorable pairings I have ever had, so for that, Air Canada gets an A+ on the X-Factor of perfectly paired desert.
X-Factor: A+ See Above ^^
Let’s recap and get my long-winded review all tied up. The bubbly was a perfectly serviceable NV Champagne that I thought was selected wisely and did exactly what it was supposed to do. The white wines were both well done, with the only issue being the word “both”. Why do we not have a third option for whites? It seems a bit silly and a small miss in my opinion. The reds were very good, average, and very good again. They may have also revealed one of the biggest contest plunders I have ever witnessed with their Platinum Best in Show -cough-cough- awarded Cab Franc. Overall, I won’t complain though, and they scored well in my books. The fortified wine which was one single 2011 LBV Port was admirable and paired perfectly, so big bonus on that front.
In conclusion, Air Canada hired a very respected and highly qualified Sommelier to curate their wine selection. Even if it is a very small list, that is not an easy job. Putting together an interesting selection with only seven wines to choose from is challenging, but she certainly did just that, and I was highly pleased with the non-typical choices that all delivered rather well when all things are considered. Each wine also had a nice write up to describe its origins along with a short tasting note. Kudos to Véronique Rivest for giving Air Canada’s passengers a bit of a journey through some of the worlds slightly lesser known regions and varietals.
PS Thank you for not defaulting to the Canadian winery that rhymes with Keller Estates… I have nothing against them, but seriously, thank-you.
Fly like a champ, and drink like a pro ladies and gentlemen.