NZ Listener Columns
  • Rare and special wines are now on the menu for Air New Zealand’s business-class passengers.

    Issue 3951 20th February 2016

    Air New Zealand is the biggest single server of New Zealand wines, each year pouring about 6.5 million glasses.
    A year ago, after studying how wine was consumed in-flight, the airline appointed Villa Maria as the sole supplier for its economy and premium economy classes. Villa Maria owns several brands – including Esk Valley, Vidal, Te Awa and Thornbury.
    But chief operations officer Bruce Parton says most of us in economy class don’t worry about the label and just want a glass of sauvignon blanc or pinot noir. The move, he says, has allowed the airline to simplify its buying, make savings and get better wines.
    Now the airline’s focus is on business class. For many years, any winery could submit samples, but in 2014 Air New Zealand announced it would choose its business-class wines from gold- and silver-medal winners at the long-established, industry-run Air New Zealand Wine Awards.
    No longer. “The problem we found is that only about 30% of the industry submit their wine through that forum,” says head of procurement Anna Palairet. In fact, many of the country’s most highly regarded producers avoid wine competitions.
    Instead, a team of four consultants will taste the wines offered for business class. Two experienced local wine judges, John Belsham and Jim Harré, were joined recently by wine commentators Fongyee Walker, of China, and California-based Linda Murphy. “Linda and Fongyee will bring an intimate knowledge of which style of New Zealand wines will bring the most enjoyment to customers originating in their respective parts of the world,” says Mike Tod, the airline’s chief marketing and customer officer.
    Other, rarer wines will also be served in business class, recommended by this country’s 11 holders of the UK-based Master of Wine qualification. In appreciation of their help, the airline recently opened a $5000 bottle of Taylor’s 1863 tawny port.

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