The best experience on a private flight is one that is easy, relaxed and enjoyable for you and your guests. A great way to help them feel comfortable is with great food and wine. Just as food tastes differently while you’re cruising at 35,000 feet, wine also takes on a new flavor. As gastronomic scientists start to gain a better understanding of how pressurized cabins affect an individual’s perception of sweet and salty flavors, finding the right wine and food pairings for private air flights takes some know-how and experimenting. When in doubt, combine foods and wines that you love individually. If they complement and improve each other, you have a winner.
The Taste of Wine While Flying in a Private Jet
One of the first senses that a private flight affects is smell. As the plane gains altitude, humidity levels and air pressure drop. The result is reduced sensitivity in your taste buds to sweet and salty flavors by up to 30 percent, according to a 2010 study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics.
Also contributing to changes in how food and beverages taste during a flight is your sense of smell. Evaporating nasal mucus contributes to your sense of smell when you’re on the ground. In a low-pressure, dry environment, nasal passages dry and odor receptors do not work as well, making food taste blander.
Wine Pairing in the Sky
When choosing wine for a private flight, your favorite vintages may not taste the same while you’re in the air. Changes in atmospheric pressure cause liquids to expand and contract. So, a gorgeous fruity wine might taste dry, acidic, tannic and thin at cruising altitude as taste buds become less sensitive to sweet flavors. The effect is even greater in those who are more sensitive to tannins because they have fewer proteins in their saliva. If you love fruity wines, however, there is hope. Choose one with lower tannin and acidity levels and pair it with fatty and salty foods.
If there is a particular bottle that you want to enjoy during a flight, such as champagne, take a cue from commercial airliners and serve it toward the beginning of the trip. Because the body, particularly the nasal passages, is less dehydrated at the beginning of a flight, you’ll be able to savor the flavors better.
Wine pairing tips to consider for your next flight include:
- Be sweet: The wine you serve should be sweeter than the food you pair with it.
- Mind tartness: In general, wine should be more acidic than the food you serve it with so it doesn’t taste bland. In the air, however, opt for wines with lower acid levels.
- Go savory: If a wine has higher tannin levels, pair it with foods that are rich in fat, umami and salt for a good balance.
- Go simple: Pair amazing wines with simple foods to highlight its flavors better.
- Foods to avoid: In general, wine does not pair well with certain foods, such as asparagus, artichokes, brussel sprouts, green beans and seafood with higher iodine levels.