Which airlines serve the best Champagne in the sky?

No first or business class flight is complete without a glass of bubbly in hand, but which airline pours the best?

By Chris Ashton, September 14 2023
Which airlines serve the best Champagne in the sky?

Travelling at the pointy end of the plane is more than just a fancy seat – it’s an experience, one often involving fine food, fabulous wine and impeccable service. Naturally, there are some truly exceptional Champagnes found above the clouds too.

A roll call of France’s leading Champagne houses, from the likes of Dom Pérignon and Krug to Taittinger and Laurent-Perrier, are frequently poured in first and business class.

But which airline serves the best Champagne? 

SWISS pours a Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle onboard. Read on for its rating.
SWISS pours a Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle onboard. Read on for its rating.

As many Executive Traveller readers would know, the term ‘Champagne’ refers solely to wines originating from the Champagne region of France. It’s a legally-protected brand. If made elsewhere, they’re known as sparkling wine. 

While we all have our personal preferences, Executive Traveller turned to Tyson Stelzer – wine expert, author, and a past editor of the Halliday Wine Companion (widely regarded as the ‘bible’ of Australian wine) – so share his knowledge and insight.

Stelzer’s is also founder of The Champagne Guide: an encyclopaedic online resource hosting more than 4,600 detailed reviews with extensive tastings notes across many of the top Champagnes, each one bestowed a rating out of 100 points.

Behind first and business class Champagne ratings

While Stelzer admits it is “a travesty to reduce the grand complexities of champagne to a single number,” he perseveres with the points system “not because I endorse it, but simply because it is universally understood”, while accompanying reviews add greater depth.

For some context, a 100 point score is the “pinnacle of character, balance and persistence”.

While that flawless rating is earned by less than 0.7% of all Champagnes tasted,  99/100 – signalling “almost perfection” – is achieved by just over 1%.

Many a glass has been raised at the Emirates A380 bar.
Many a glass has been raised at the Emirates A380 bar.

“A 94 point champagne has impeccable purity and immaculate balance – a gold medal in a wine show,” Stelzer enthuses.

Broadly speaking, “less than 90 is sound but unexciting, and 91 is where all the real fun begins.”

Rating descriptions become more colourful as the numbers dip, with an 88 “worth buying if it’s cheap” and an 84 “borderline faulty”. A score of 80 translates into: “Horrid. You’ve been warned”.

Given the vast number of Champagnes bottled annually, not every drop has been added to The Champagne Guide yet, though the overwhelming majority offered inflight have.

These are the Champagnes poured by some of the world’s leading airlines, alongside the associated rating; you’ll find the overall winner revealed at the end of this article.

 

Air Canada

Canada’s national airline offers a zesty Laurent-Perrier Brut NV (92 points) in Signature Class (international business), with tasting notes describing it as a layered Champagne with flavours of summer fruits, followed by nuances of toast, butter and nuts.

Air France

Given its status as the flag bearer of the nation behind Champagne, it stands to reason Air France must have a pretty magnificent selection onboard. That’s certainly the case, and it’s available in all classes from nose to tail – a key point of difference from its rivals.

Business class onboard Air France's Boeing 777.
Business class onboard Air France's Boeing 777.

In La Premiere, first class travellers will find an exquisite Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle (97 points) until October, when it’s switched out for a Piper Heidsieck Rare Champagne 2013 (not yet tasted).

Gosset Brut Excellence (86-89 points) is poured in business, with the blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier evoking aromas of yellow stone fruits and dried fruit.

Premium economy and economy are served Pannier Brut Sélection NV, which is as yet unrated.

Air New Zealand

Those reclining in Air New Zealand’s Business Premier Class to the likes of New York – read our review here – will find the same Laurent-Perrier Brut NV (92 points) as Air Canada.

Champagne is a perfect way to start your trip on the right note.
Champagne is a perfect way to start your trip on the right note.

The Kiwi flag carrier has a radical reboot of its international business class primed to take wing in September 2024, and Champagne will no doubt be an essential part of the experience. 

All Nippon Airways

Japan’s well known for its deep-rooted ‘omotenashi’ culture of hospitality, where guests are always treated with the utmost respect. That extends to premium cabins on ANA, where Krug Vintage Brut 2004 (97 points) is poured in first class, followed by Castelnau Cuvée Brut Réserve (not yet rated) in business.

American Airlines

Well-heeled flyers on American Airlines enjoy Vollereaux Cuvée Marguerite (93 points) in International First Class – it’s described as possessing citrus-meets-floral qualities – alongside Champagne Boizel Brut Réserve (86 points) in Transcontinental First Class.

Passengers in business class are served Ferrari Brut, which the airline notes has been twice recognised as the top sparkling at The Champagne and Sparkling Wine Championships.

British Airways

British Airways is another fan of Laurent-Perrier, though rather than choosing the same Brut NV mentioned above, it opts for a Grand Siècle NV (97 points) in its first class. Travellers are also offered a citrus and raspberry-accented Lanson Rose Champagne NV (89 points).

In Club World (business class) it pours Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Silver Top NV (not yet rated), as well as an English sparkling wine option.

Cathay Pacific

Variety is always good. That’s something Cathay Pacific has taken to heart on its forward cabins, with the Hong Kong-based carrier offering Champagne Krug Vintage Brut 2004 (97 points) in first class, followed by a choice between four champagnes in business.

Cathay swapped traditional flutes for tulip-shaped glasses to enhance the aromas.
Cathay swapped traditional flutes for tulip-shaped glasses to enhance the aromas.

Depending on the route, availability and time of year, business class passengers can raise a glass of Deutz Brut Classic NV (93 points) or Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV (91 points), Thienot Brut NV (85 points) or Taittinger Réserve Brut NV (93 points).

Delta Air Lines

Travellers cocooned in luxury within Delta Air Lines’ Delta One business class are offered a well balanced Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve NV (86 points), which is said to have an aroma of dried biscuits and chocolate, pairing perfectly with white meats.

Emirates

Gulf carrier Emirates is well known for pampering passengers at the pointy end of its aircraft, particularly on its flagship A380; both a bar and showers await to energise weary travellers.

Champagne is just as impressive, with the airline boasting exclusive partnerships with Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon until 2024. Dom (96 points) is reserved for guests in first class, while the latter two take wing on select routes as follows:

  • Veuve Clicquot is served on flights to the Americas, UK, and Europe
  • Moët & Chandon is served on flights to Africa, Middle East, and Asia Pacific

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways has two delicious Champagnes in first class also. The star is a Devaux & Chapoutier Sténopé 2009 (not yet rated) – a fifty-fifty blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, featuring aromas of vanilla, brioche, warm bread, lemon zest, and candy notes.

Etihad's First Class Apartment is once again in flight between London and Abu Dhabi.
Etihad's First Class Apartment is once again in flight between London and Abu Dhabi.

In addition there’s a Duval-Leroy Rosé Prestige Premier Cru (90 points), which delivers aromas of wild cherry and red berries with hints of ginger and geranium for those who request it.

Japan Airlines

JAL is primed to debut an all-new first and business class onboard its A350 from 2025. In the meantime though, there’s still plenty to enjoy within the existing suites. And yes, the Champagne is flowing freely.

First class flights from Japan see generous pours of a Le Mesnil Salon S Blanc de Blanc 2013, as well as a Lanson le Vintage 2012. In the other direction, flights to Japan pour a Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 2008. Unfortunately, none are rated yet.

In business class, travellers enjoy a moreish Drappier Carte d'Or NV (91 points) – expect honey notes and a little spice – alongside a Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve NV (86 points), which draws out flavours of dark chocolate and cinnamon.

Korean Air

Collaborating with the world-renowned sommelier Marc Almert, Korean Air has recently rolled out a new wine and Champagne selection on international routes.

In first class, this takes the form of an Henri Giraud MV18 (not yet rated), which is said to have aromas of brioche and espresso and pairs perfectly with seafood and cheese.

Prestige Class (business) features a Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2007 (not yet rated) that boasts notes of dried black fruit, roasted pineapple and cherry. It’s said to go well with oysters gratin and mushrooms in a cream sauce… which are both very specific.

Lufthansa

First class flyers jetting off on Lufthansa can look forward to two Laurent-Perrier Champagnes: a Cuvée Grand Siècle (97 points), in addition to a Grande Cuvée Rosé Alexandra 2007 (92-96 points). Both are said to deliver a feast for the senses.

In business class, Lufthansa’s Master of Wines has selected a Ferdinand Bonnet Blanc de Noirs (not yet rated) – said to have notes of ripe red apple, blackcurrant leaf, almonds and toast.

Qantas

On Qantas’ A380 – already flying to Singapore, London and Los Angeles, and soon to take wing between Sydney and Johannesburg – you’ll find three first class Champagnes: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 (99 points), plus Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Rare 2002 (98 points) and a Pommery Louise 2005. The latter is not yet rated.

Business class flyers are served one of two different Champagnes.
Business class flyers are served one of two different Champagnes.

The airline notes these are in circulation across the network; not all on the same flight.

Business class flyers will find either a Jacquart Cuvée Brut Mosaïque NV (90-91 points) – said to possess aromas of pear, peach and lemon – or a Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve NV (86 points). Based on those ratings, either one is worth raising a glass of.

Qatar Airways

Jetsetters travelling on Australian routes with Gulf carrier Qatar Airways receive a choice of two delicious Champagnes in Qsuite Business Class: a Gosset Brut Grande Réserve, which has aromas of citrus and peach, and a Taittinger Prestige Rosé (94 points).

Qatar Airways describes the latter as having “expressive aromas of freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and blackcurrants are followed by a silky smooth palate that can be summed up in four words: lively, fruity, fresh and elegant.”

Singapore Airlines

First class flyers on Singapore Airlines can pair their caviar with a choice of three tantalising Champagnes: Krug Grande Cuvée (96-97 points) and the same Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 (99 points) found on Qantas, together with a third rotating option.

That third option is part of ‘A Celebration of Champagne’ that sees a different drop take flight for a limited time only. These are:

  • Geoffroy Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Volupté 2016 – August and September 2023
  • Henri Giraud MV 2018 – October and November 2023
  • Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires – December 2023 and January 2024
  • Champagne Egly-Ouriet Extra Brut ‘VP’ Grand Cru – in February and March 2024

Business class features a choice of two Champagnes: Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve (95 points), in addition to a Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Extra Brut NV (94 points).

Swiss International Air Lines

SWISS takes wing with the same Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Grand Siècle (97 points) found on parent Lufthansa in first class, while business class currently pours Duval-Leroy Brut Réserve NV (86 points), though will be switched to Jacquart Cuvée Brut Mosaïque NV (90-91 points) from September 6.

The best Champagne in first class

So which airlines serves the very best Champagne in the sky?

Naturally, first class is going to claim first place: and based on scoring by Stelzer The Champagne Guide, this is actually a tie between Qantas and Singapore Airlines.

Both Singapore Airlines and Qantas’ Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008 received the highest rating of those tasted by Stelzer – coming in at an impressive 99 points.

“The grilled toast nuances of reduction are heightened in large format, uniting effortlessly with the brioche and vanilla notes of a touch of barrel fermentation,” Stelzer enthuses, declaring it “the greatest Comtes of the modern era, with decades of glorious life before it yet.”

The best Champagne in business class

Singapore Airlines also takes pole position in business class, pouring a 95-point Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve praised by Stelzer as brimming with notes of “spicy lemon and grapefruit, crunchy pear and apple”.

Coming a very close second is Qatar Airways’ exquisite Taittinger Prestige Rosé, which at 94 points tied with another Singapore Airlines drop, the Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Extra Brut NV – and in Stelzer’s expert opinion, both would win “a gold medal in any show”.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 711

As I can't afford First Class or Krug, but any champagne with 'Heidsieck' in its name satiates my budget and taste (and Mrs B-T also).  But not sure why Bollinger didn't get a mention, somewhere.  Her words ('On Champagne') are truly immortal:

“I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it―unless I’m thirsty.”

― Lily Bollinger, (1899-1977), Bollinger Champagne

CFG
CFG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 5

Gold-medal: 18.5–20.0 points. Outstanding quality; Silver-medal: 17.0–18.4 points. Excellent standard; Bronze-medal: 15.5–16.9 points. Very good 

Multiply these points by 5 and you have the 100 point scale.

Aussie wine shows for years used the 20 point scale so to say "Rating descriptions become more colourful as the numbers dip, with an 88 “worth buying if it’s cheap” and an 84 “borderline faulty”. A score of 80 translates into: “Horrid. You’ve been warned” is just ridiculous! 84 points is 16.8  or just below a silver medal. Drink the wine and forget the points- no reviewer can predict what you palate likes.

 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Hi Chris

Respectfully, Qantas hasn't served the Taittinger (99 points)  for over a year now

I have flown them on 6 International F flights post pandemic and there has been a marked decline in the quality of the champagne served, including vintages past their prime and champagne advertised on the menu not available on board

SQ on the other hand has wavered little other than not having BOTH Dom and Krug

This may have changed given recent events

I have 4 F flights with them n the next 6 months and will report back 

The absence of a rating for Salon, by far the most expensive and iconic in the entire article, is a pity

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Dec 2014

Total posts 7

I agree with Ian62.  In First Class Qantas has been serving cheaper Champagnes like n/v Ayala Blanc de Blancs and vintage Charles Heidsieck (not Blanc de Millenaires) and wines that aren't on the menu.

Japan Airlines has about one bottle of Salon for the whole cabin and then serves a lesser Champagne.

Singapore had Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and 04 Krug when I last flew them in January but am flying them again next month.  Yum!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Apologies, 2 further points:

1.Emirates also serves the Dom P2 on select flights which needs mention 

2. It would be useful to know what Stelzer thinks about the fact that champagne in a pressurised cabin tastes vastly different to the scores given on the ground, which can result in a very different experience and less meaning to these fairly subjective ratings

Many reviews talk about "flat" champagne mid flight which needs consideration in any assessment of its in flight value

L3
L3

07 Sep 2023

Total posts 1

Where's the ranking? Sortable by class of service. An alphabetical listing doesn't answer the reader's primary questions and is TL;DR.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jun 2019

Total posts 2

You'll need to update this article. I was on the Qantas A380 in first class between Sydney and London, and apart from the mediocre service and poor food quality on the first leg, they didn't serve any of the champagnes you mention in the article. It was a very ordinary tasting champagne, certainly not in the class of the ones you mention.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 97

Interesting! I was in QF First last month and they served me Duval Leroy Brut Femme de Champagne 1996!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 162

I really hope this gets up dated when he reviews the JAL first. Flew April and the Salon is a definite 98/99 point point wine, when I got married we had a 1990 Krug, that sort of level. 

The Billie, although Francois was advertised it was actually the Louis Salmon, mid-90's and a solid Blanc de Blanc, but in fact definitely behind the 2008 Elizabeth Salmon Rose (which I have laid down two bottles) that is probably a 96/97 point wine

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Feb 2018

Total posts 2

Alan Joyce obviously enjoys a champagne and when he realised that he had to go, he lowered the quality. The guy is a joke and yes I'm writing this because I'm a disgruntled customer who lost out to his antics to boost profits for shareholders and justify top staff salaries. Good riddance. 

12 Aug 2022

Total posts 2

On my last, and I mean last, international business class flight on QANTAS they served a French sparkling, not champagne. It was nasty.  That was the deal breaker. Never again on QF.

emd
emd

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 12

These are the wrong questions.

The question is how each champagne tastes at cabin pressure.That is not the same as sea level where champagne tastings take place.And there can be a significant difference in taste.

So where is the rating of champagnes at 5000ft?


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