March 24, 2021
There's something about sipping a decent glass of wine high above the clouds. It's one of the great pleasures of travel. Like travel, wine can be about discovering new things, can come with a good story and, when chosen carefully, can be a force for good. All of these things are carefully considered by the dedicated team who curate our onboard wine selection. Their love of wine, combined with a passion for delighting our customers, means you're likely to find some truly delicious, responsibly sourced, smaller batch wines when you next fly with us.
We spoke to Shiada Drysdale, one of our inflight services food and beverage managers, to find out more. Shiada, our resident wine expert, has just overseen the introduction of our new wine selection. As always, her aim is a mix of old and new world wine and popular grape varieties alongside wines with fantastic community investment stories.
Tell us about your passion for wine, your blog, your thoughts on the subject. Why is wine brilliant!
My real interest in the world of wine started not long after I joined Virgin Atlantic. I was lucky enough to join a cabin crew wine training day hosted by Master of Wine Demetri Walters at Berry Bros. & Rudd. Demetri’s charismatic approach was fun and informative. I was instantly inspired to learn more, so I took my first wine qualification within a few weeks. From then on, I made a point of exploring vineyards across our route network, whether in South Africa, California or even in Florida. My thirst for knowledge (excuse the pun!) has grown, and I have since taken further qualifications. I love trying wines that are off the beaten track, such as a New York Riesling, Washington State Sauvignon Blanc, Indian Shiraz and Chinese Rose. I started my Instagram blog @wineandthesky as a virtual record of the wines I try, as I rarely drink the same wine twice. I also use it as a way of sharing my experiences and introducing new wine regions or varietals.
Like a good book that can transport you to a different place, I believe the same can be said about wine. Certain aromas and tastes can conjure up the same enjoyable feelings and memories of being somewhere special. I am also fascinated by the stories and the labelling behind the wine. All wines are born from a labour of love. They are all unique and have their own nuances. The more I learn about wine, the more I enjoy it; it complements my love for travel. For me, wine is brilliant for many reasons. It’s the geography, the history, the landscape, and the holistic experience wine can deliver.
What are the ethical and sustainability considerations when buying wine?
The wine industry is on the cusp of change. As a result, more sustainable choices are becoming readily available to the consumer. There is a shift from the more traditional ways of doing things. Canned wine is an excellent example because cans are endlessly recyclable and lightweight, and perfect for reducing the carbon footprint. To support Virgin Atlantic’s vision of removing single-use plastics, we constantly look for more sustainable solutions. This will be a huge focus for us when it comes to sourcing ethical and sustainable wines, and beverage’s in the future.
We advocate for flying homegrown wine and have a great relationship with the English vineyard, Hambledon. We have been serving Hambledon’s Classic Cuvee in Upper Class for almost two years now.
We are currently talking to brands who echo our ethos for being a ‘Business for Good’ and believe in producing responsibly and giving back to the community or the environment.
A great example of this approach can be found with one of our new wines onboard. Can you tell us about that?
We are proud to be flying a South African Sauvignon Blanc called Journeys End’ Weather Station’. In August 2020, the winery launched ‘The Journeys End Foundation’, a community-based project. Set up as an NGO, the team at Journey’s End established the Foundation to tackle hunger and extreme poverty, mainly due to Covid-19, by setting up a network of soup kitchens in the Helderberg region of Stellenbosch. Since Nov 2020, the Foundation has been providing 13,000 meals per week to the surrounding communities in South Africa.
Flying a South African wine not only is a nod to one of the great wine-producing regions on our route network, but also our way to show support to South Africa’s wine industry as they suffer their third domestic alcohol ban in the space of a year, which is leading to a significant increase in unemployment in the wine-producing region and beyond.
We continuously strive to source ethical, community investing and eco-friendly wines and drinks as part of our beverage offering.
How do we stand out from the crowd when it comes to wine choice?
Alongside popular wines that we know our customers love, for example, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or an Argentinian Malbec, we always aim to create a conversation with discovery wines. And as we are redefining our wine programme, we are keen to reignite the interest in our carefully curated selection through the fantastic stories of the brands we work with, such as the Journey’s End CSR impact. Wines that taste amazing and have a real and lasting impact on our world.
How does customer feedback influence our wine buying choices?
We keep a close eye on consumer trends and review feedback from our customers and cabin crew. We like to introduce newness within the onboard menus and include wines with a great story behind them. We look out for newcomers to the market and homegrown talent such as our brilliant English wine.
Visit the Journey’s End Foundation website to learn more about their work.
Want to taste some of Shiada’s recommendations? Looking forward to sipping sauv blanc in the sky? Or planning a vineyard visit. Your journey starts by booking your flights on our website.