Singapore Airlines (SIA) is one of the most decorated airlines in the world, so it is no surprise that it also has one of the best wine collections in the sky. Assembled by a panel of wine experts, its catalogue clinched five golds in Business Traveller’s Cellars in the Sky Awards 2022, including Best Overall Cellar, Best Presented Business Class Wine List and Best Presented First Class Wine List
For the novice wine collector, building a personal stash may seem daunting or affected. But a supermarket brand is just as susceptible to poor storage as your prized vintage Burgundy. So whether you are buying an easy drinking wine for a weeknight or aiming to rack up an age-worthy collection, it’s worth carving out a space in the house for your favourite bottles.
Where can you start? SIA’s expert wine consultant Michael Hill-Smith MW and Andrea Pritzker MW, who duxed the prestigious Len Evans Wine Tutorial in 2022, share their tips on how to start a wine collection of your own. Michael Hill-Smith, in his capacity as SIA’s expert wine consultant, also explains the considerations behind SIA’s awarded wine list.
Find a quiet, dark place with a constant temperature
“Wines like a quiet place to be cellared, away from light, vibrations and fluctuations in temperature,” says Pritzker. A dry basement or underground storage space is ideal. Otherwise, an internal closet (such as under the stairs) also works well.
Hill-Smith favours housing special bottles in temperature-controlled wine fridges. “As much as I like traditional cellars, the reality is that most of us don’t have the space. These units store between 120 and 240 bottles and do a great job for long-term storage of top collectables.”
Collect based on your drinking habits
“Every wine collection starts with two bottles,” says Pritzker, so there’s no hurry in amassing a collection. When determining what or how much to buy, she suggests gauging based on your drinking habits.
“Assess how many wines you drink over a month or year and then calculate from there. If you enjoy a bottle of wine three to four times a week, I would recommend building a cellar of approximately 300 to 400 bottles. This will ensure that you can enjoy your favourite wines regularly, while also keeping a few bottles tucked away in the cellar to see how they develop with time. It’s important to always save some space for your next discovery,” she adds.
Always try before you buy
Hill-Smith says one common mistake wine lovers often make is “not tasting before they buy”. This is important to get a sense of the wine’s quality and flavour, and most importantly whether you love it or not.
Drink it, or pass it on
Another common mistake, Hill-Smith adds, is “leaving wines too long in the cellar without monitoring their progress as they age.”
Pritzker concurs, “I used to work in fine wine auctions and the most common mistake is buying too much of one type of wine and not properly planning on when you will drink it. I saw a lot of beautiful wines that vendors wanted to auction that were sadly past their best. If you love the wine, purchase a case or more, but be sure that you’re also drinking through it. If not, either sell it, or give it away as gifts while it’s still in its prime. Cellared wines make excellent gifts.”
“Every wine collection starts with two bottles”
Build an SIA-worthy collection
SIA’s taut wine list provides a good jumping-off point for the novice collector. Highlights include second growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundy, as well as some excellent champagnes. Hill-Smith enthuses, “Krug Grande Cuvée is an extraordinary wine combining power with finesse, and Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne is a wonderful example of aged blanc de blancs (Champagne made exclusively from white grapes). My favourite Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires is currently being poured onboard and future pours include the extremely rare and famous grower champagne Egly Ouriet.”
How Singapore Airlines does it
Curating a collection that can shine under dry cabin conditions is no easy feat. Hill-Smith, together with SIA wine consultants Jeannie Cho Lee and Oz Clarke, blind taste through over a thousand wines a year to select the finest examples of Champagne, red, white and port.
“Curating a long wine list is easy; creating a short list is more challenging!”
“An SIA wine list should be thoughtfully constructed to successfully contrast different wine styles from both Europe and the New World,” Hill-Smith explains. “Champagne in both Business and First class is mandatory, of course, along with a balanced selection of light and heavier-bodied reds plus oaked and unoaked whites. The list should be concise yet exciting.”
Needless to say, size matters when it comes to an in-flight wine menu. “Space is at a premium on aeroplanes so each wine needs to earn its place,” he explains. “Curating a long wine list is easy; creating a short list is more challenging!”
So what can passengers look forward to imbibing in flight? “In Business, we offer one Champagne, two dry whites, three reds and a 10-year-old Tawny Port. And in First class, two prestige cuvée Champagnes plus a rare grower Champagne, two whites, three reds and a 20-year-old tawny port. The First class offering tends to be more classic, whilst in Business class, we include more ‘discovery wines’ along with staples such as Australian shiraz, Bordeaux and white Burgundy,” according to Hill-Smith.
Blind tasting ensures that the bottles are picked for wine quality rather than just famous premium labels – we look for well-made wines with personality and vibrancy. And “because the air in the cabin can be dry at altitude, wines with good fruit lift tend to show well,” Hill-Smith adds.
For more information on our Wine Consultants and our beverage programme, visit the official website.