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 Savvy in the Sky: Defying the paradox of poor wine drinking at 30,000 feet in the air

by Simone Zarmati Diament

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Paradoxically, as airlines pack in as many passengers as an aircraft can possibly handle by reducing the space allotted to each traveler, they are investing more and more money into their wine offerings.

However if they deliberately disregard the passengers’ comfort, they unwittingly ignore the fact that wines taste different in a pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet in the air.

It appears that pressure can numb the senses of taste and smell just like a head cold would, and that the constant din of the engines ebbs the perception of salty while enhancing the sense of sweet.

As a result, wines that are perfectly delicious and well-balanced on the ground can taste more tannic and acidic at a high altitude. What a quandary for the increase numbers of sommeliers hired by airlines to select the wines on board.

 

Photo: Terry Peabody in the cabin of his his private jet, a gorgeous and luxurious Dassault Falcon 7X.

This facts don’t seem to frazzle Terry Peabody, who sells a good percentage of the two million bottles he produces each year at hisCraggy Range Winery in New Zealand to airlines.

 

“The Emirate airlines is our largest single customer followed by Singapore airlines, and we are getting orders from more airlines… ” Mr. Peabody told me that morning, aboard his private jet, a gorgeous and luxurious Dassault Falcon 7X.

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Photos: Kobrand's Jennica Ossi and Catherine Cutier, 2015 Craggy Range Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand; Simone Diament, editor  www.southfloridagourmet.com

To prove that not all wines are alike - meaning that his do not falter when flying at high altitudes - Terry Peabody, the founder of Transpacific Industries and owner of Craggy Range Winery in New Zealand, had invited a group of journalists and wine trade members from Miami to sip his Craggy Range wines in the air while hopping over for lunch at the Ritz Carlton in the Grand Cayman. 

“We can go anywhere in the world with this plane and we invite journalists from London, Stockholm, Oslo, Geneva, for a day to another country to give them the opportunity to taste our wines in mid-air,” he said as he explained his program  "Savvy-in-the-Sky". That is when he is not flying to Canada or the USA on business trips relating to his multi-million dollar company.

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Photos: Veronica Litton, chief wine buyer at Crown Wine & Spirits with master sommelier Virginia Philip, wine director at the Breakers Palm Beach, owner of The Virginia Philip Wineshop & Academy; Jorge Mendoza, wine director of the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne; a view of Cuba (the jet's New Zealand registration allowed us to overfly the island.) 

Right after take-off, the complex floral, mineral, herbal aromas of the 2015 Craggy Range Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, from Martinborough, New Zealand ($21.00), hand-harvested from the estate-owned TeMuna Road Vineyards, filled the air, overpowering the smell of gasoline and of the jet’s new leather upholstery.

Mr. Peabody proved his point. The wine’s complexity of aromas and tastes – fresh green apple, honeysuckle, kiwi and more, its acidity, and its fragrant and lingering finish were all there. “Wait till we land and you sip it with food,” he said with a mischievous smile. He was right!

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Photos: Terry Peabody on the Beach of the Ritz Carlton, Gran Cayman; a copious buffet; delicious callalloo soup, all foods superbly paired with the wines.  

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While he lives in Australia and conducts his international business there, Mr. Peabody who is American by birth (he was born in Guam and raised in continental USA) was attracted by the affordable price of land and the uncharted spirit of New Zealand’s burgeoning wine industry. Harnessing the expertise of  New Zealand viticulturist and Master of Wine, Steve Smith, and partnering with him, he set out to find the best sites, the best clones, and the top wine people, to help him make great wines.

Craggy Range Winery was founded in 1997 with vineyards on the stony soils of the Gimblett Gravels District of Hawke’s Bay– a land owned by the cement cartel, and later on Martinborough, and now, with two winemaking facilities located in Hawke’s Bay, the winery produces Bordeaux red blends (from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé.

Craggy Range produces three lines of wines: The Family Collection, the Limited Editions – from single-varietal, single-vineyard estate grapes from parcel specifically planted for that purpose -  and the Prestige collection – a range of single varietals and blended wines from berries sourced from the Gimblett Gravels and the Te Muna Road vineyards.  

“Our Bordeaux blends can be aged for 40 year or more. We only produce single estate grown vineyard wines,” said Terry Peabody as he extolled the glory of his Pinot Noirs, light-bodied yet packed-full of complex and delightful flavors, and wished he would live a life as full and a long as his Le Sol,  “and we reduce our production by 50% to maintain the quality we want.”

The Craggy Range Winery wines we tasted:

Whites:

2015 Craggy Range Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand ($21.00)

2014  Craggy Range Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand ($21.00)

2011 Craggy Range Kidnapper’s chardonnay, Hawke Bay, New Zealand ($22.00)

Reds:

2011 Craggy Range Te Kahu, Merlot dominant Bordeaux Blend, Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($22.00)

2012 Craggy Range single vineyard Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand ($45.00)

2013 Craggy Range Sophia, Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($75.00) – Prestige collection

2009 Craggy Range Syrah, Le Sol, Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($75.00) – Prestige collection

For additional information, log on to www.craggyrange.com