Every six months, Oz Clarke tastes approximately 1,000 wines to shortlist the best ones to be served on board Singapore Airlines flights. This is an intricate exercise for the palate, especially since wine appreciation at 35,000 feet in the air is a whole other stratosphere – literally and figuratively – due to inherent cabin dryness and noise even on the most modern of aircraft.
“We select fascinating flavours that don’t challenge your palate, nothing with too much structure or austerity,” says Clarke on the subject of wine pairing on board. He keeps a “very open mind” on selecting food-friendly wine partners such as shiraz to synchronise with the melting pot of global cuisines served on board.
“Lush wines with beautiful fruit profiles send messages of relaxation to your brain and gets you salivating for a bite to eat.” Thus, Clarke believes that choosing wines well would help to get people into a good state of mind for as long as possible.
Because passengers look forward to reassuring wines, the Airline carries the best stock of top quality mature Bordeaux in the air, and as sauvignon blanc is regularly requested, New Zealand labels are served “because they make the best”. Naturally, travellers typically enjoy changes in scenery, so “we’re pouring a great pinot noir from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula because that’s a very sexy New World grape at the moment”.
This is no mere coincidence with Singapore Airlines passengers taking red wine more seriously, and also why Spain’s Bodegas Borsao was featured on board.
“Their tremendous, juicy style of grenache impeccably fits the bill for many of our passengers who want their relaxing drink to be a glass of red wine,” says Clarke. “It’s also very good with food, but first and foremost, it’s an excellent drink on its own. This is a wine philosophy we uphold consistently across all classes.”
Even after half a century in the business, the most recognised wine critic in the UK sees himself as a “young turk” who is inquisitive and very open to suggestions. Regarded as “the guy who knows about the New World in England”, as well as areas like Bordeaux which he is well versed in, Clarke shares that he seeks out new wine producing areas for fresh developments in the world of wine.
“The modern world of wine is properly led by millennials and it’s necessary to invigorate innovation in vineyards” and that is why Singapore Airlines will soon be pouring a remarkable Italian amarone from a Veronese white wine specialist.
“Pieropan is not normally thought of for red wine, yet their amarone is more delicate, fragrant, and with as much flavour as you could possibly want, with a perfumed uplift. It’s exciting, delicious and completely surprising.”
With global warming forcing nature’s hand and breaking traditional regional rules, Clarke’s tasting itinerary has extended to areas of Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Europe that are up-and-coming or experiencing a revitalisation.
“If our audience wants to be led towards that world, we’re absolutely poised to take them there. You should always feel like you’re in a cocoon of love being on board Singapore Airlines with all these delectable wines – that’s the mood I’d love for our passengers to be in.”
– TEXT BY DESIREE KOH
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAN WEI TE
ART DIRECTION: NG SAY LEE
GROOMING: ADELENE SIOW
HAIR: ANNIE TAY
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.