A taste of heaven

James Fuller samples Caribbean Airlines’ new wines…all in the interest of research, of course

Employees of Vintage Imports, one of the suppliers to Caribbean Airlines, as they enjoy a glass of wine. Photograph courtesy Mirissa De Four

Wine appreciation is increasing in the Caribbean, says Stephen Arneaud, liquor promotions manager at the Trinidad firm of Marketing & Distribution.

“I think there are a number of reasons for that: the influence of the foreigners based here; locals having more disposable income; the fact that it is viewed as a sophisticated drink; and people wanting to expand their horizons.

“We have seen evidence of its growing popularity here in Trinidad with the opening of wine bars such as More Vino in Port of Spain.”

Four new wines have been available to passengers on all Caribbean Airlines routes since the beginning of March. With over 3,000 bottles of red and 2,400 bottles of white wine being consumed on CAL flights annually, it’s important to get the selection right.

Two red and two white wines were chosen after a tasting event at the airline’s offices in Port of Spain, Trinidad, at the end of last year. Forty participants (including frequent flyers, travel agents and representatives from the media) were canvassed for their opinions on 15 wines (eight red and seven white). Murari Cabernet Venezie (Italy) and Banrock Station Shiraz (Australia) were the favoured reds, and Carta Vieja Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) and Banrock Station Chardonnay (Australia) were most highly regarded amongst the whites.

“We will be changing our wine selection twice a year, and we update our meal menu on a quarterly basis as well, so the options available to our passengers are always fresh ones,” says Caribbean Airlines’ director of marketing, François Pariseau.

The final selection was a geographically diverse one, representing three different continents.

“It is an interesting mix of old and new world, with wines from Italy, Chile and Australia represented. Everyone should be able to find something to please their palate amongst this selection.”

Wine-tasting 101

Wine selection is a necessarily subjective matter, but here are some basic wine-tasting tips.

Pour an inch or so into a clear glass. Tilt the wine in the glass and look at it against a white background (eg a napkin). What do you see? Is the wine clear or cloudy? What colour is it?
Colour gives a clue to age. White wines generally gain colour as they age, red wines tend to lose colour. That is, young red wines are more red or burgundy, while older wines tend to show a hint of tawny brown around the rim.

Swirl the wine a couple of times by moving the glass in a circular motion. This releases vapours. Put your nose over the rim and breathe in. Try to detect the full range of scents and consider their intensity and appeal.
Most wines have characteristic aromas of the grapes they are made from. You may detect hints of vanilla, berries, peach, or even grassy or smoky aromas. Every wine is different.

Take a sip and let the wine slide across your tongue from front to back and side to side. Notice as many sensations as you can. How full-bodied is the wine? How fruity? How silky or rough does it feel? Tannins (used in red wines to keep them from spoiling) will feel prickly on your tongue. Younger red wines are usually more tannic.

Above all, does the wine feel balanced or does one element overpower the others?
And finally, what is the aftertaste, or finish, like?
The bottom line is that a good wine should give you pleasure. It should smell good, taste even better, and be smooth and satisfying, by itself or with whatever you’re eating.

Caribbean Airlines’ new wines

Red wines

Ca Visa Cabernet delle Venezie
Brand: Ca Visa
Grape variety: Cabernet delle Venezie
Year of vintage: 2007
Location: Negrar, Italy
Characteristics: Deep ruby red colour, delicate herbaceous aroma, intense and elegant taste.
Food pairings: Ideal with all meats.
Supplier: Marketing & Distribution, Trincity Industrial Estate, Trinidad.

Banrock Station Shiraz

Brand: Banrock Station
Grape variety: Shiraz
Location: Banrock Station Wine & Wetland Centre, Kingston on Murray, South Australia
Characteristics: Vibrant purple with deep red hues, this wine epitomises the depth of colour and flavour Australian Shirazes are renowned for. It has aromas of blackcurrant, cherry and spicy oak. Fresh fruit characters of cherry and red berry fruits are balanced by liquorice and tantalising chocolate flavours. Hints of cinnamon, vanilla and oak add complexity.
Food pairings: Perfect with pasta and pizza.
Supplier: Hand Arnold (Trinidad) Ltd, El Socorro Road, San Juan, Trinidad.

White wines

Carta Vieja Sauvignon Blanc
Brand: Carta Vieja ClasicoGrape variety: Sauvignon Blanc
Year of vintage: 2007
Location: Loncomilla Valley, Chile
Characteristics: Attractive pale yellow with marked green tinges. Expressive flavours, with characteristic citrus notes. In the mouth it is sharp and well-balanced, fresh, youthful, medium-bodied.
Food pairings: Chicken, seafood, pasta and salad.
Supplier: Vintage Imports, Hunter Street, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Banrock Station Chardonnay

Brand: Banrock Station
Grape variety: Chardonnay
Location: Banrock Station
Characteristics: This sassy Chardonnay reveals soft peach, pineapple and citrus aromas. A full palate is characterised by ripe tropical fruit flavours of peach, rockmelon and pear, coupled with subtle hints of oak. A clean and crisp finish balances this easy-drinking wine.
Food pairings: Chicken, seafood and creamy pasta dishes.
Supplier: Hand Arnold