British Airways Updating First & Business Class Champagne Selection

Lately we’ve seen several airlines invest in their champagne selection. For example, Singapore Airlines has been serving 2004 Krug in first class since late last year, while Emirates has been serving Dom Perignon 2000 P2.


Choose from two types of Dom Perignon in Emirates first class

Whenever I write about airline champagne, several people quickly point out “well most people can’t tell the difference between these champagnes anyway.” While that may very well be true, there’s still something to be said for the amount of money that airlines are investing in their product.

Sure, airlines are getting some sort of a discount on champagne due to the volume they buy, but they’re still paying a lot for a $400 bottle, for example. So a carrier’s wine program is often pretty reflective of how much they generally invest in their soft product.

With that in mind, British Airways has announced this month that they’re improving the range of sparkling wine that they serve in first class, business class, and in their lounges, including the introduction of English sparkling wine. British Airways says that they serve more than two million bottles of champagne per year, which is a lot.

Historically one of the few things that has impressed me about British Airways first class is their champagne selection, so when I first saw this announcement I was concerned that they’d be cutting their excellent champagne.

Here are the sparkling wines you can expect on British Airways going forward:

Champagne in British Airways First Lounges

  • Canard-Duchêne Charles VII Champagne
  • Champagne Jeeper Brut Grand Rosé

Champagne in British Airways First Cabin

  • Gusbourne, English Sparkling Wine
  • Lanson Rosé Champagne

Champagne in British Airways Club World Cabin

  • Canard-Duchêne Cuvee Léonie Brut Champagne
  • Champagne Besserat de Bellefon

As before, Castelnau will be served in business class lounges, and Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle will be served in first class and in the Concorde Room. It has always impressed me that British Airways serves such good champagne in their lounge, since most airlines offer better stuff in the air than on the ground.


Champagne selection in British Airways Concorde Room

It’s also nice that British Airways will continue to serve Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle in first class, as eliminating it would have been a huge downgrade.

 My take is that it’s nice that they have more options, I just fear that they’ll provision fewer bottles of Grand Siecle and instead replace them with the other first class sparkling wines. Lanson Rose is perfectly fine, though personally I don’t love rose, and it’s also not in the same league as Grand Siecle.

I can’t say I’ve had an English sparkling wine lately, though I’d be curious to try it.

What do you make of British Airways’ revamped sparkling wine list?

Comments

  1. Gusbourne is really excellent British sparkling wine- very pleased to see some local product being featured. It’s not terribly expensive but I would reckon it’s a welcome addition.

  2. English sparkling is excellent wine.

    Lucky, they have been servicing LPGS, an English sparkling and a rose champagne in First for a long time.

  3. The return of English wine has largely been centered around sparklings like Bolney and Gusbourne. As long as they are keeping a high end real champagne, it is a nice touch.

  4. There’s no reason why England shouldn’t produce good wines. The French would have us believe that it’s impossible, but they said the same about “new world” wines, ie California, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa ( and now they invest heavily in those places).

  5. Have always respected BA for the excellent selection in the lounges. And I’ve always suspected that they realize — without overtly saying — that reduced pressure and humidity in the cabin vastly change a sparking wine’s character, effervescence and taste.

    It’s always baffled me the airlines that serve Krug, Dom, Crystal, etc., in the cabin when they know full well that not only can these wines not properly be appreciated at altitude — but they actually “perform” more poorly than many less well known wines whose profile is much better suited to service in a low-pressure, low-humidity environment. But God forbid a passenger in First be offered something other than a top-tier (by reputation) wine.

  6. “less well known wines whose profile is much better suited to service in a low-pressure, low-humidity environment.”

    HUH?

  7. I think the funniest ranking on the recent Skytrax Awards was…

    First Class Rankings:

    11. British Airways
    12. SWISS
    13. Garuda
    14. Japan

  8. Qatar used to serve Billecart Salmon rose which is one of my favorites and a reasonable price too. But of course it doesn’t have the cachet as say serving Krug or Dom, which people care about.

  9. Gusbourne is a quality producer. Soil composition in Kent and West Sussex is remarkably similar to Champagne and, whereas climate change has negatively affected production in France, it has improved conditions in the UK.

    I’d still go for the Grand Siècle based on cost/benefit, but it’s a nice addition to their wine list and a perfectly acceptable bubbly to drink if a flight ran out of the pricy stuff.

  10. Bit off topic but I have wondered why airlines haven’t started serving prosseco in economy? It can be quite inexpensive.

  11. Sean S.

    I agree. You get champagne for 400/bottle and for beer it’s Heineken. Or as i like to call it: Water. Can’t be that hard to load some decent ales.

  12. Thomas,

    It is possible that some craft beers and real ales do not keep so well as inert keg beers like Heineken, leading to wastage and spoilage

    In the old Swiss Air First class they used to wheel a beer keg around and pour it for you. Since it was rarely drunk they would wheel it into Business class at some point across the Atlantic

  13. No more Rose Champagne in Club World Cabins? – Really? We don’t need a choice of 2 mediocre champagnes, 1 brut and 1 rose is fine……. complete downgrade and disappointment if this is true :'(

  14. The canard duchene cuvee leonie is a great champagne for its price. It’s around $35/bottle (I get it for 15% off at my wine club). I’d be curious to try their Charles VII vintage

  15. BA were serving English bubbly (Bolney) in First onboard a year ago.
    There are quite a few really rather good English bubblies, but unfortunately they are no cheaper than Champagne.
    I think BA doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves for offering so many sparklers – which other airline carries six different ones on a flight (3 in First, 3 in Business) ?
    Varying the lounge selection to reflect the different air situation and provide variety seems smart to me.
    It’s just a shame that I personally don’t particularly like the Grand Siecle!

  16. Just checked with BA ConsumerPR – RE Rose champagne in club world: According to them-

    “Besserat de Bellefon Rosé will be served in Club World”

  17. English sparkling wine. Ugh. Brexit gone mad. Shall have to avoid it if they run out of Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle.

  18. @Lucky —> random thoughts…

    >>> Sure, airlines are getting some sort of a discount on champagne due to the volume they buy, but they’re still paying a lot for a $400 bottle, for example. <<>> Champagne in British Airways First Lounges: Canard-Duchêne Charles VII Champagne;
    Champagne Jeeper Brut Grand Rosé <<>> Champagne in British Airways First Cabin: Gusbourne, English Sparkling Wine; Lanson Rosé Champagne <<>> Champagne in British Airways Club World Cabin: Canard-Duchêne Cuvee Léonie Brut Champagne; Champagne Besserat de Bellefon <<<

    The Canard-Duchêne retails for $45. I cannot provide pricing on the Bessert de Bellefon, because that is the name of the producer, but you doesn't specify the specific wine being served. I would presume a similar retail price.

    _______________
    ¹ According to wine-teacher-dot-com, the average retail price around the world is $270.
    ² "Case One" refers to "no discount," i.e.: the maximum wholesale price one would pay.

  19. Hmmmm…. Lucky, it appears the way in which I wrote my response eliminated much of the text from appearing on the page. (Ooops.)

    Bottom line: None of the bottles being poured on BA are very expensive, but they are all very good wines. Most retail here in the US for between $45-50, with one being about $80.

    Your “$400” example of the 2004 Krug in Singapore F is misleading (IMHO). This Champagne can easily be found at retail in the US for ~$270/btl. Wholesale cost in the US is $180/btl. Restaurant pricing here in the US is generally starts at $500-570, but can go up from there. As retail pricing is a far more accurate measure of pricing, I’d call the Krug 2004 a $270 bottle…$300 if you really insist on rounding to the next $100.

  20. @Varun Susarla

    There are actually a couple of excellent English sparkling wines that have really come along in the past few years (thanks global warming!).

    What I find interesting about this is the publicity angle – as several have commented the best English sparkling wines suffer because they retail at the same price (or more) than a comparable champagne from a brand that is far more recognised.

    While it’s great to see BA supporting British products, I suspect most international customers would consider the option cheap (which ironically it is not). And it certainly shouldn’t be a First Class wine, they should offer this in business if they want to, it’s equivalent to a solid/mid range Champagne in quality.

  21. If airlines want to serve cheap wines then so be it, but then they have to stop charging $5000 ow in F. They cant have it both ways!

  22. @Woot —> I don’t mean to paraphrase Bill Clinton here, but it all depends upon what your definition of “cheap wine” is. I don’t find any of the aforementioned wines to be “cheap.” While some are indeed less expensive that others — and certainly the wines being served by SQ in F *do* cost more than those served over at BA in F or J — all of the wines¹ are ones I would happily have in my glass, and on my table…even the Gusborne. While some people (who, no doubt, have never tried “English fizz”) may scoff at the thought, the overall quality of wines like Gusborne, Nytimber, Camel Valley, Chapel Down, and others is truly excellent — significantly closer in style to Champagne² than the overwhelming majority of California sparklers (as one might expect), Spanish Cava, or the sparkling wines made elsewhere around the world.

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    @Kerry —> I think you hit the nail on the head: the retail pricing of wines like Gusborne and others is, at the moment, the biggest stumbling block (besides limited availability) to more people drinking English sparkling wines. It is indeed possible to still find cuvées of Brut Champagne for the same or even less than the price of English wines, and consumers are understandably opting for the *name* Champagne. It’s a relatively quality, and even those who have never tasted (e.g.) Dom Pérignon or Louis Roederer Cristal *know* they’re good…they’re famous — household names like “Lafite,” “Kleenex,” and “Band-Aid.”

    The future of English sparkling wines is, IMHO, not in any doubt. One glass convinces people of the quality; it’s just a matter of getting that glass into consumer’s hands, and there is where price is a deterrent.

    _______________
    ¹ Of all the wines Lucky mentioned in the article, the only one I am not familiar with/tasted personally is the Champagne named for the US Army’s General Purpose vehicle from World War II, the Willys “Jeep.”

    ² In 2015, the Champagne house Tattinger acquired land in Kent for a vineyard and has plans to produce sparkling wines in England, just as they did in California (Domaine Carneros).

  23. The Jeeper Grand Rosé NV is a wonderful Champagne.
    Here are some recent awards:
    ✭✭ Le Guide Hachette des Vins 2017,
    95 points James Suckling
    Silver (Outstanding) International wine & spirits competition 2017,
    Silver Medal – International Wine Challenge – 2017,
    Silver medal – Best French Wines for Asia Awards – 2017
    Silver medal – Sakura Wine Awards Japan – 2017
    ✭✭✭ Wine State Magazine (Australia) – November – 2017

    James Suckling said “This is a fantastic rosé that shows subtle strawberry, fresh bread dough and chalk aromas and flavors. Full body, very vinous and fruity yet bright and delicious. Creamy texture. The blend of the best chardonnay from the producer fermented in barrels and pinot noir. Drink it!”

    The young Chef du Cave, Marie-Luce Thierry at the age of 30 is turning heads in Champagne. She was recently a finalist in the International Wine Challenge Awards for International Sparkling Winemaker of the Year.

    If you are lucky enough to be in a BA lounge. Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *