Wine, the JAL experience
I have a confession to make. I’m one of those bores you see in airport lounges in countries far distant, tasting and making notes on everything that’s on the bar. I draw the line at the offerings in Australian domestic airports: it’s the exotic stuff that gets me when I travel. I also try to taste everything that’s served on the flights, and cabin attendants get a bit tired of me pushing the call button.
Having just completed four legs to and from Europe on JAL business class, here are my thoughts. (NB: I paid my own way.)
Air France codeshare Business Class lounge, Charles de Gaulle airport (30/12/15)
- Paul Jaboulet Aîné Les Jalets Crozes Hermitage 2012 – an excellent glass of Rhône syrah (tasting).
- Delamotte Champagne Blanc de Blanc NV – a reliably good Champagne. (tasting)
- Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Sainte Claire 2013 – really lovely and a typical, appetizing, basic-level Chablis. (tasting)
- Les Chenes de Bouscaut, Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 2010 – ripe dark fruit and chocolate, and high alcohol for Bordeaux, at 14.5%. (tasting)
JAL Sakura lounge at Tokyo’s Narita airport (4/1/16)
At first glance, not nearly as interesting as the Paris offering.
- Sileni Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2014 (12%) – A typical pungent Marlborough savvy, with exaggerated tropical fruits. (tasting)
- Reyes de Aragon Brut Reserva Cava, Spain NV (11.5%) – A very pleasant sparkling wine, showing some aged character and not a simple, young, fruity style. (tasting)
- Ironstone Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Lodi, California 2013 – Dark berry, tomato aromas, smoky tobacco, cigar-butt aromas, and very soft. (tasting)
A selection of Japanese sakes, as well as the customary spirits.
General finding: the wines seem to be chosen to fit the 89 to 90 point range, according to my scale. That’s pretty reasonable. You do find the occasional wine that over-delivers, such as the Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage at Charles de Gaulle.
On the planes
The same selection was offered on each leg in business class.
- Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV – A very good, soft, early-drinking style of blanc de blancs. (tasting)
- Errazuriz Max Reserva Chardonnay, Aconcagua, Chile 2013 – A quite oaky, full-blown, generously flavoured chardonnay. (tasting)
- Roux Père et Fils Côte de Beaune Villages Roches Noires, Burgundy 2013 – A light, simple, fruity Beaujolais-like pinot with spiced cherry aromas. (tasting)
- Château de Pitray Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux 2010 – A merlot-driven blend, light-medium bodied, soft for early drinking, with cigar-butt aromas. (tasting)
- Horstaden Riesling Collection Privé, Alsace 2014 – Dry and a touch austere, with modest fruit aroma and flavour. (tasting)
All pretty decent wines, but it’s worth mentioning that I had a corked bottle of the Delamotte and the Roux, and both were replaced swiftly when the fault was pointed out (but I wonder how often others drink corked wine without complaint).
The food was excellent. I ate the Japanese menu every meal and the bento box of nine colourful dishes in ‘Kobachi’ bowls were mostly delicious. One or two were a little bland, but things like chrysanthemum garland dressed with dried persimmon in sesame sauce were ‘oi-shi’ as well as surprising. And the amuse-bouche of foie gras mousse and shrimp with mayonnaise – in separate dishes – was superb, especially when there was Champagne in the glass.
I also like the way they don’t automatically serve a second meal later in the flight, but you can order a hot meal whenever you like, up to 90 minutes before landing.