Wine is big business, even in the airline world. Delta Wine, not always thought of as cutting edge seems to be quietly making a number of improvements. Andrea Robinson, Master Sommelier has been curating the Delta wine program the past few years. Delta also has a wine education program for flight attendants. I only learned about this flight attendant program from the excellent purser on a recent Philadelphia to London Delta One flight. It is really nice to have an enthusiastic crew on your transatlantic flights, and Delta tends to have some of the best employees of the “Legacy Three” US Carriers.
Recently Bloomberg ran a splashy article “Emirates Has Invested $500 Million to Build a ‘Fort Knox’ of Wine,” that gives a glimpse of the planning and operations of a major airline’s wine program. It is important to remember that Delta only has one premium cabin, Delta One, which is international business class. Airlines such as Emirates have both an International First Class and Business Class on board product. There tends to be a lot of attention paid to luxury Champagne brands, which I personally feel is overstated. As we all know, you do not need to be drinking Krug to have a wonderful Champagne experience. I am very far from a wine expert (though, quite a few of my friends are) but I do enjoy my wine (a lot).
Delta Wine Has Been Improving
Over the past few years, improvements have been creeping into the Delta wine program. I made mention of this in 2015, and have been quite a fan of Delta’s soft product improvements. In my opinion, Delta has great glassware for their business class product. The varied stems and tumblers are stylish and sensible. Unlike the older United Airlines glassware (thankfully recently improved with Polaris) that was akin to the glassware choice of a New Jersey Diner. My only real complaint are the horrible “fake” woodgrain trays that Delta insists on using. It “kills” the presentation of the Delta One meal service. If they would just go to serving without the trays, presentation would be much improved. Just compare the entree presentation to just a simple (from the cart) dessert/cheese presentation without the tray. I really hope Delta is reading, and I would love to understand the reasoning behind the trays.
For Spring 2017 Delta has transitioned from Champagne Deutz, to a very nice Charles Heidsieck Brut NV. But, the real surprise, that was pure drinking pleasure was the Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde. I didn’t think much of it (remember, not a wine expert here), but it was incredibly enjoyable at 35,000 feet and a lovely complement to the cheese and dessert course. Not until a good friend commented on my FaceBook post : “Wow, the Guigal is a $60 bottle of wine! I’m impressed!” (Yes, I semi-obsessively share on FB, no judgements, please), did I realize that perhaps Delta was “really” stepping up their wine-game. Indeed the Guigal is quite a bit more expensive than the usual US Domestic “Legacy Three” pricing for an inflight red wine.
Overall Delta has been emphasizing the premium improvements over the past few years, so this could be another sign that Delta is more interested in tangible improvements and not just marketing fluff. We all know that Delta is operationally the best of the “Legacy Three,” and with the introduction of Polaris by United the premium market among the US Carriers is becoming more competitive. Not to mention, Delta will really have to improve their Sky Club lounge offerings to compete with the new Polaris Lounge that just opened in Chicago (ORD). Delta used to have dedicated first class lounges, as well as an international first class product. It will be interesting to see Delta’s response to United over the next few months. 2017 might just be a very exciting Delta wine year. Andrea states that “the 2017 Delta One lineup is going to be the best one EVER.” Not to mention, we have some emerging trends like a dry Rosé for summer to look forward to. Things really do seem to be going in the right direction at Delta, if only Delta would get rid of those horrible “fake” woodgrain trays.