First Class wines

By Barbara Keck



I had to beg and borrow air miles in order to upgrade my ticket to First Class for a recent trip I took to Ethiopia. That journey is about 18 hours of flying time, not including changing planes in Heathrow, London, and hanging around San Francisco International for the obligatory three-hour check-in time. That’s my old-lady excuse, but another reason was that I wanted to taste the wines poured in First Class.

I must say, Ethiopian Airlines has a wine list of which they can be proud. I’m not sure how many of these wines you’ll find in your local shops, but I’m sure they are available on the Internet. So, let’s travel First Class together in this column. Disclosure: the tasting notes are provided by Ethiopian Airlines.

The 2012 Barton & Guestier Chateauneuf du Pape is from the vineyards situated in the Rhone Valley of France. This brightly cherry-red colored wine is aromatic, fruit driven (black cherry and prune), mixed with tobacco, liquorices and spicy notes. It is soft and round, with remarkable ripe tannins and a long spicy aftertaste. 13.5 percent alcohol.

From South Africa, Boschendal Lanoy’s Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot is a deep garnet color. This is a bold wine, a true South African Shiraz/Cabernet blend, and has luxurious fruit with aromas of cassis, pepper spice, liquorice and sage. It is full bodied, elegant and complete with well-integrated wood and soft powdery tannins on the palate. 14 percent alcohol.

The 2008 Rioja Vega Reserva red wine from Spain is the typical Rioja blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes. Aged for two years in oak, it’s an elegant wine, with wood and other intense aroma of ripe forest fruits and spice notes. There’s a subtle toastiness, and a balsamic background. The rich variety of fruit flavors with soft tannins and balanced acidity make for a long and pleasant aftertaste. 13.4 percent alcohol.


The favorite of my First Class wines was the 2013 Palacio De Bornos Verdejo, a white wine made solely from the most expressive Spanish white grape variety: Verdejo. This wine has notes of green apple and pear along with scents of white flowers, herbs and a pleasant hint of citrus. The taste is broad, with an excellent acidity that adds freshness. This Verdejo has a great personality, with a long and spicy finish. 12.5 percent alcohol.

Last, from the north of Burgundy, the 2012 Barton & Gustier Chablis. This white French wine has a golden straw-yellow color, a fine aroma of mineral tones mixed with dried fruits and nuts, and a wonderful white floral overtone. It is round and creamy tasting, with a good acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol.

By the way, Ethiopia was fantastic. Rugged travel in the countryside, but worthwhile.


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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.