There's a Trick to Make That Airplane Wine Taste Better

Rachel Tepper Paley
March 12, 2014

Photo courtesy of Delta

You’re cruising 30,000 feet above earth, crammed in coach on a domestic flight. You do not like this. You pray that the pilot turns off the seatbelt sign already so the stewardess can deliver on that glass of red wine you ordered.

Finally, the stars align and a mini bottle of red wine appears at your folding tray table. You take a sip, and… it’s awful. Atlantic Media’s business site Quartz suggests a simple trick for making it taste better: shake it

But does it really work? We turned to Tom Matthews, executive editor of Wine Spectator, to see if this method checks out.

"When you open a bottle, wine can be inexpressive [at first]," Matthews explained. This is because wine is bottled with as little oxygen as possible; too much of it can flatten an otherwise beautiful blend. But a little bit of oxygen helps unlock subtle aromas and flavors, said Matthews. This is why we decant. 

Something tells us you don’t keep decanters handy at 30,000 feet. So, Matthews, said, the Quartz technique “will aerate the wine … it’s a good trick in that case,” Matthews said. “But whether the improvement is dramatic or worth the risk of spilling the wine or looking like an idiot, that’s up to the drinker to tell.” Fair point.

Some people, including Restaurant Marc Forgione sommelier Matthew Conway, wouldn’t devote such energy to airline wine. ”There’s nothing you can do to get some wine to taste good,” he said. “I fly JetBlue to Sacramento nonstop pretty frequently, and the type of wine they serve—you could shake it and fairy dust it, it’s not going to change. It’s pretty bad wine.”

Our advice: Go ahead and shake your airline wine—if you drink it, why not make it taste the best it possibly can?—but don’t expect it to transform into a 20-year-old Bordeaux