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Masters of Champagne

The Perfect Ambience
Flying colours: creating the perfect ambience for in-flight Champagne.

From the comfortable reclining seat on-board your Citation Latitude jet, you peek out of the window. You’re cruising calmly above the clouds, and as you look down at your watch, you see you’re already three hours into your flight to Dubai. How has the time flown so quickly? With a book in one hand and a glass of Champagne in the other, you’re content. Despite flying at an altitude of 40,000 ft, the cabin pressure feels like that of just 6,000 ft, and as the sun begins to set, the cabin takes on a warm, red hue. Perfect. 
As you take a sip from your glass, you notice the Champagne seems to change, becoming fruitier and sweeter. Unsure if it’s your imagination, you take another sip. No, it’s definitely sweeter. The only thing that’s changed in the cabin is the reddish lighting caused by the disappearing sun – but that couldn’t be the cause. Could it?

Oestrich-Winkel, Germany, 2004. Visitors to the Allendorf winery, situated on the spectacular Rhine River, chatter excitedly as they wait to start their tasting. It’s not an ordinary session today, however, and these are no ordinary guests: the 206-strong crowd are in fact students from the University of Mainz. They’re joined by three researchers from the university’s Psychology department, who will be testing how different types of lighting affect their tasting experience. Would the red or blue light increase their enjoyment of the wine, and how would green or white lighting change its flavours?

Seated in a windowless room, a far cry from the rolling hills and waterside villages, the tasters work their way through different wine samples while the wall in front of them changes colour. They must score each sample in the areas of sweetness, sourness, bitterness, fruitiness and spiciness. With the ambient lighting switched to red, the wine tastes sweeter and fruitier – more enjoyable. It’s the same with the blue lighting, but less so with the green and white lights. When asked whether they would pay more money for the wines consumed in blue and red lighting, mostly, the answer is yes.

So colour plays a role in defining the flavour of Champagne, but there are other contributing factors too, such as smell and your mood at the time of tasting. With smell making up as much as 80% of taste, how does what we do – or don’t – smell affect the in-flight Champagne tasting experience? As master sommelier Andrea Robinson wrote it in a piece for Business Insider UK in 2015, ‘Your senses are dulled at altitude, making it difficult to appreciate the complex scents and flavours wine has to offer.’ Similarly, Women’s Health UK’s investigation into aeroplane food in 2014 revealed that being stressed, cold or in artificial lighting can also dull taste buds.

Back to the Citation Latitude jet. In an ordinary cabin, the pressure and dry air would be numbing your sense of smell, in turn dulling your taste buds and preventing you from enjoying your Champagne to its fullest. On-board the Citation Latitude, however, the air feels clear and fresh. The jet’s auxiliary power unit, designed to increase passenger comfort whatever the weather, allows you to take a deep breath and enjoy the fragrant perfume of your Champagne.

As the setting sun fades and darkness envelops the skies below you, you lean back into your seat aboard your private jet.

Are you stressed?
Far from it.

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