This week Down Under

Australian shiraz claims credit for founding wine’s mile-high club

By Richard Whitehead contact

- Last updated on GMT

Australian shiraz claims credit for founding wine’s mile-high club

Related tags: Drinking culture

An Australian winery has taken to tailoring products for a sky-high target market.

St Hallett Wines in South Australia’s Barossa Valley has released a shiraz blend specifically for the high-altitude cabins of passenger aircraft. 

Plans are also in place not only to serve the wine at altitude but to also blend it mid-flight for maximum effect. 

Named after the neighbouring regions of Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, where the shiraz grapes were sourced, “The Duo​” will be served exclusively inside Virgin Australia’s business-class cabins, and in its airport lounges. 


St Hallett winemaker Shelley Cox said the cooler climate Eden Valley fruit was chosen for its floral and spicy aroma, while the Barossa Valley grapes were more rounded and plush. 

She said the creation of a specific blend was important because the cabin pressure, noise and dry air while flying dulled the senses. 

Blending the two of those together means you’ve got a full-flavoured palate but not the strong tannins so it’s nice and smooth, easy to drink and not out of balance​. 

Whereas with the normal domestic wine the tannin might seem a little bit aggressive in those conditions​.” 

It’s also got a nose that’s inviting and will be able to be sensed at that higher altitude​.” 

Cox said it was the first time she had heard of a winery customising a blend specifically to be consumed in an aircraft. 

The wine’s launch does, however, come hot on the heels of an announcement by Cathay Pacific last week that it would stock the “world’s first hand-crafted bottled beer with consumption at 35,000ft in mind​”.

Made from British and Hong Kong ingredients, including dragon eye fruit, New Territories-sourced honey and Fuggle, a mainstay hop of British craft ales, “Betsy​” ale is made bespoke for the airline. Its brewers took into account similar environmental concerns to those St Hallett’s Cox considered in her wine blend.

She said it was hoped The Duo would become an ongoing product as the demand for more customised products grew. 

We played around with a lot of different options to ensure the acid and texture balance was right. It was a great experience and we are confident the wine will deliver in both taste and aroma on the plane at altitude​.” 

The on-board services team came over and did the blending with me and I think the plan is to do a blending session up in the air on a flight to Perth, so we can get that in-flight experience as well​,” she added. 

Virgin Australia’s general manager for in-flight experience, Tash Tobias, said the team was always searching for ways to deliver outstanding on-board experiences. 

“We are thrilled to bring the best of the Barossa to our guests travelling in business class, and will continue to work with leading industry players to improve the in-flight experience,” she said said. 

More stories from Down Under…

Alcohol given by parents linked with lower likelihood of binge drinking

Children whose parents give them alcohol have double the risk of drinking in the longer term, though they are less likely to binge drink.


Researchers in Sydney found this group were much more likely to be drinking full measures of alcohol by 15 or 16, in a study involving nearly 2,000 children and their parents over four years.

The study was prompted by widespread interest in the so-called “European model​” of introducing children to alcohol. Parents who practice this offer sips of alcohol to their children from a young age. Some people believe it guards against harmful drinking in later life.

Richard Mattick, a professor at University of New South Wales and a research fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, said it was difficult for parents to know if giving their children alcohol was safe and had benefits.

We know that parents want to do the right thing by their children and there has been anecdotal evidence that children introduced to alcohol by their parents, as is common in some European cultures, may be less likely to develop problems with alcohol​,” he said.

Unfortunately there are very few well designed studies out there that can offer definitive advice to parents; our study was designed to address this gap​.”

Prof. Mattick, with colleagues from Perth and Tasmania, recruited 1,927 adolescents and followed their consumption of whole drinks, seeing if they had more than four on any single occasion, defined in the study as binge drinking. They also investigated whether the alcohol had been supplied by parent, peers or other adults. 

Adjusted for family-related factors such as structure, conflict and alcohol use by relatives, the data suggested that parents would double the likelihood of their children drinking full servings of alcohol a year later if they provided them with alcohol at any point in the study.

Getting alcohol from other sources, such as peers or other adults, also doubled the chance of the adolescents drinking full servings in 12 months. 

As well as being less likely to binge, the former group would also typically drank less. This latter group, however, was three times more likely to binge drink. Prof. Mattick said the results painted a nuanced and complex picture for parents. 

“Parents who supply alcohol to their children may be relieved that they are significantly less likely to engage in harmful behaviour, probably as they are drinking more in front of their parents, so drink less on a given occasion​” he said. 

However, the results also suggest that when parents supply alcohol, even with the best intentions, are likely to accelerate their child’s drinking, and open up potential for future harm.

Prof. Mattick cautioned parents against assuming that they were protecting their children by supplying alcohol because it was likely to reduce binge drinking, saying children should delay drinking for as long as possible. 

They may be giving a permissive message to children which may be setting them on a path to early drinking that might otherwise be avoided​,” he said 

He admitted, though, that the possible protective effects on binge drinking were important and needed to be explored further.

Fsanz names new CEO to replace McCutcheon

Mark Booth has been named as the new chief executive of the antipodean food regulator, after six years as a senior civil servant in the health ministry.

Mark Booth
Mark Booth

Booth, whose appointment was made by assistant minister for health David Gillespie, will leave his old role to take up the position at Food Standards Australia New Zealand (Fsanz)

His appointment will give fresh perspective and strength to this role at a time when food standards and food safety require greater scrutiny, rigour and bi-national cooperation than ever​,” said Dr Gillespie, who name-checked Booth’s predecessor, who had held the role for a decade until his departure on January 31.

I know that Mark will build on the legacy of outgoing CEO, Steve McCutcheon, who leaves the role as a distinguished authority on best practice food regulation​.”

Related topics: Business, Oceania, Asian tastes, Beverages

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