American Airlines Will Serve Perhaps the Best Wine Ever Offered Inflight

On their inaugural Los Angeles – Sydney – Los Angeles flights, in first class, American Airlines will be pouring 2010 Penfolds Grange.

American Airlines wine consultant Ken Chase says,

Penfolds Grange is the epitome of Australian wine royalty and a heritage icon of South Australia, so we’re treating first class passengers to an unparalleled experience in the sky. It’s intriguing and complex with a colorful history of experimentation and secrecy.

I think American’s claim to be serving an $850 bottle of wine in first class for the inaugural is a bit of a stretch. At least I hope they didn’t pay that! Wine.com claims it retails for $850 though sells it at a discount to that. Wickman’s auctions lists a range of AU$520 to AU$630 which converts to ~ US$450 at the top end.

Nonetheless, Penfolds Grange is a fantastic wine, enough to make me wish that:

The outbound is in fact sold out in First (but quite open for sale in business class). However there are still first class seats available for the inaugural Sydney – Los Angeles leg.

It prices at $7748 or 240,000 miles one-way.

I remember flying to Australia in 2000 to visit family. I was reading a piece in the Economist on Australian wine; how Penfolds Grange had a halo effect on Australian wine proving to the world that it could be great.

I landed at 6 am, as one does. I didn’t sleep on the flight at all. I forced myself to stay up all day to adjust to local time. At dinner my uncle asked how tired I was, if I was too tired for some good wine. Never too tired for good wine.

That was the first time I tried Grange. It’s amazing how a bottle of wine can come to represent memories, for me it’s a memory of being welcomed and reconnected with family. It’s an especially poignant one for me because I do not have much family at all (most directly I have a brother, and one living grandparent). And my family tends towards the hyper-rational, and somewhat distant, a trait regular readers might notice in this blog. So for me Grange represents warmth, in addition to any stature it may have in the broader world.

Now, I haven’t tried the 2010. It’s the 60th vintage of Grange, and supposed to be a superior year. Wine Advocate scores it a 99. Still I cannot imagine drinking it so young. I’d think it would need at least another 5 years to mature. If you happen to be on the flight please please let it open up before tasting it. It is a very long flight and can easily open up for a few hours. I’d be fascinated to taste it both in the air and on the ground.

American will only be serving this wine for their inaugural. Though they’re ramping up the soft product for their Sydney route (such as better coffee and pajamas in business class), they’re not going to spend at this level on an ongoing basis.

And alas I’m not buying a 2010 any time soon, and I certainly won’t have the opportunity to drink it in the air. But Penfold’s Bin 389 (“Baby Grange” or “poor man’s Grange” as it uses Grange barrels from the prior year) is much more accessible. Penfolds St. Henri is another Shiraz Cabernet blend which needs quite a bit of cellaring but is fantastic at a far lower price point as well. I’d love for American to serve either of those from an appropriate year on an ongoing basis on the route…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. You might be right in regards to the best wine in flight – but on my EK F LAX DXB flight last year Penfolds Grange was on offer (and was exquisite). Overall EK F wines are some of the strongest in the sky.

  2. How could you recommend letting it open up for a few hours versus asking for multiple glasses and consuming one per hour? Stay sober and have your own hourly tasting!

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