Airplane wine

With summer vacation season, some of you will be flying in airplanes. Wine may be offered. Be prepared for the pain of plane wine.

The pressurized, dry, noisy, crowded atmosphere at 35,000 feet is not conducive to wine enjoyment. Dehydration, fatigue, and stress of air travel add to the problem, plus you will be sipping average wine out of a small, plastic cup. This is a recipe for vino vexation.

Dehydration is a major issue, exasperated by the dehumidified cabin. Smell is a major factor in appreciating wine and a key player in tasting wine. When you are dehydrated and in a dry, pressurized environment your smeller takes a nose dive.

Fatigue and stress further degrade your ability to smell and taste. You are a lucky traveler indeed if you do not experience fatigue and stress in today’s world of take off your shoes, walk through metal detecter, get herded to your middle seat between a large businessman and a fidgety child.

When this panoply of problems puts the knock on your nose, you are physically less able to experience subtle nuances of wine. You are able to taste sweetness, the least affected part of your overall palate experience, so airlines compensate by pouring fruitier, bolder wines.

Bubbly is the biggest bust. Sparkling wine typically is bottled at five times greater air pressure than sea level. When you pop the cork, the wine’s ability to hold carbon dioxide is reduced and bubbles appear.

Sparkling wine for use in airlines is bottled at less atmospheres. If there is a sudden loss of cabin pressure, not only would the oxygen masks descend, but regular bottles of bubbly would explode. So airline bubbly is stuff you will have trouble smelling and tasting, and it will be slightly flat.

Enjoy your vacation; eschew wine when flying to get there. Alternative: unlike other tastes, high noise levels in the plane heighten your ability to taste umami flavors. Order a Bloody Mary.

Tasting notes:

• Steele Wines Lake County Cabernet Franc 2015: Well-made cab franc brings power and some herbaceous friskiness to pop and pour. $18-19 Link to review

• Effort Chardonnay Edna Valley 2016: Very smooth, fruit-forward easy drinker; noticeable but restrained butter and oak. $24 Link to review

• Pepper Bridge Winery Trine 2014: Serious big Bordeaux blend, intriguingly led by cab franc. Pair with the richest steak you can find. $65-80 Link to review

Last round: I always see my glass as half empty, which is the reason I always refill it.

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