13/02/2007 - 22:00

WA wines take flight

13/02/2007 - 22:00

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Dan Pannell stopped sending his Picardy wine to Qantas years ago after seemingly failing to secure a plum spot on the airline’s wine list.

WA wines take flight

Dan Pannell stopped sending his Picardy wine to Qantas years ago after seemingly failing to secure a plum spot on the airline’s wine list.

Then he got an email from Peter Nixon, who runs Qantas’s wine program. Mr Nixon wanted Mr Pannell’s wine.

Mr Pannell told him, politely, that he wasn’t interested. He was somewhat annoyed that the airline’s tasting panel, which included his brother Stephen, had consistently rejected his wines.

But, Mr Nixon insisted on trying the Picardy label.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Picardy’s 2005 chardonnay is on Qantas’s first class wine list and the airline is also stocking the Pemberton winery’s pinot.

Vanya Cullen, who sits on the Qantas wine tasting panel, said that wines make the airline’s list by either being selected by the tasting panel or being chosen because they are an award winning or high-profile wine. The Qantas wine list has swelled from 30 to 200 since the panel was formed in 2004.

Soon to be joining Picardy on the Qantas flight deck is Margaret River winery Lenton Brae, which recently secured a contract to supply the Australian airline with 380 cases of its 2006 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

Lenton Brae winemaker Ed Tomlinson said the wines would be served on domestic routes.

“It helps our brand because we sell most of our wine domestically, so this is our target market,” he said.

It’s not the first time Lenton Brae has had its wine in the sky.

It sold wine to Ansett in the 1980s, which also was a semillon sauvignon blanc blend.

Watershed Premium Wines is another Margaret River winery finding success in the aviation sector.

It has previously sold wines to Qantas but scored a big win earlier this year with Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific.

Watershed will supply Cathay with 4,000 cases of its 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay, which will be served in business class, and 5,000 cases of its 2004 Shades blended red for Cathay’s economy class.

It’s the first time Watershed wines will be poured on an international flight. Watershed managing director Geoff Barrett said new-world wines were growing in popularity with airlines.

“There is a demand for new-world wines,” he said. “It is to do with quality, which is very important for airlines, but they get the quality at a better price point.”

Salitage has been served on a number of airlines for more than a decade.

Salitage winemaker Patrick Coutts said the winery had an agent in the UK, which put together wine lists for airlines such as Qatar Airways. It also works directly with airlines.

WA wineries undergo a tough selection process. Not only are they competing with the best from around the world, but the wines are often tested in-flight because the character of the wine can change due to the low humidity.

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