Winetasting at 35,000 feet

I asked so many wine questions I had to come clean.
When I confessed to the crew of Singapore flight 25 I was going to the Singapore Airlines wine forum, an off-duty crew member overheard and took me through an impromptu wine-tasting at 33,000 feet — or whatever the actual altitude was. It was also 2:30 am, or perhaps 2:30 pm, depending on whether you’d changed your watch yet.
Anyhow, there I was with Faizal, who is a young and very polite air-sommelier-in-training. He took me through several whites and reds. In his experience, some wines become “dumb” or closed at high altitudes, showing much less aroma and flavor than the exact same bottle sampled on the ground. I’m hoping to find out more about this from Steven Spurrier and the other wine judges for Singapore Air in the next few days.
One of the best wines to drink in the air — especially with the spiced Thai dishes on the menu — is a Riesling from Balthasar Ress, 2006 Rudesheim Rheingau Spatlese. Its floral and fruit aromas wafted up pleasantly in the glass, and a bit of sweetness pairs well with Thai spices.Bouchard’s Beaune de Chateau 2006 Premier Cru was enjoyable with Western flavors including cheeses, though some of the aromas seemed lost in the altitude.
With hearty meat dishes, Faizal favors the Rive Barbera d’Asti 2006 Il Cascione or the Dry Creek Vineyard 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley. It was a treat for me to taste the Cos d’Estournel 1999 St. Estephe and we had an interesting discussion about what people expect from “older wines” these days. Twenty or 30 years ago, knowledgeable wine drinkers looked for these secondary developmental characteristics in “properly aged” wines; today’s consumers favor bigger fruit flavors from younger wines and perhaps don’t even understand how a wine does evolve over time because they never experience this.
Faizal and the whole crew regret recently running out of the Clos de los Siete 2007 cabernet sauvignon-malbec-merlot blend. Apparently this was a great favorite of passengers as well as crew.

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