Grower not shower: Singapore Airlines introduces grower champagnes in First Class

From now to March 2024, SIA Suites and First Class customers can enjoy a third champagne offering featuring growers like Henri Giraud and Egly-Ouriet.

Singapore Airlines has launched A Celebration of Champagne, a 10-month long programme that sees a third champagne option added in Suites and First Class, alongside its existing pours of Krug Grand Cuvee and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (Dom Perignon, you may recall, has become an Emirates exclusive for the foreseeable future).

This third slot will be shared among five rotating champagne labels, each served for two months. What’s interesting is that the lineup will include grower champagnes, wines made and bottled by the same person who grew the grapes- what a novel idea!

A Celebration of Champagne

A third champagne option is now available in Suites and First Class

Singapore Airlines’ A Celebration of Champagne runs from June 2023 to March 2024, and features the following champagnes: 

ChampagneProducerSchedule
2018 Vilmart Grand Cellier dÓrVilmart & CieJun to Jul 2023
2016 Cuvee Volupte, Blanc de Blancs VintageChampagne Geoffroy Aug to Sep 2023
MV18 Multivintage Grand CruChampagne Henri GiraudOct to Nov 2023
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires*Charles HeidsieckDec 2023 to Jan 2024
NV Egly-Ouriet ‘VP’ Grand Cru Extra BrutChampagne Egly-OurietFeb to Mar 2024
*Vintage not stated

The first of the five, 2018 Vilmart Grand Cellier d’Or, is already being poured on Suites and First Class routes, as this inflight menu from Singapore to London shows.

I don’t claim to be much of a wine expert, though in recent times I’ve made a concerted effort to explore Grower champagnes, which I find to be much more interesting than the showy but sometimes monotonous House champagnes (“I’m a grower, not a shower!”, I proudly declare to anyone who will listen).

It’s true that Grower champagnes are not necessarily better than House; there is the potential for wide disparities in quality from year to year. Still, at least you know your money’s going towards the wine, and not some overblown marketing budget (that’s enough, Moet & Chandon).

I’m personally looking forward to the Henri Giraud MV18, which is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, two-thirds coming from the 2018 vintage and the rest from a perpetual reserve “of aged wines that began in 1990. This retails for €220 per bottle, has received critical acclaim from the usual suspects, and was produced in a “microscopic” production of just a couple of thousand cases.

For what it’s worth, I did reach out to an expert in the form of Gary Low, Co-Founder of Vinoluxus and Head Sommelier to some of Asia’s best restaurants. His brief take: “the last three (referring to the MV18, Blanc des Millénaires and VP Grand Cru) are stellar”.

It’s remarkable that an airline the size of SIA would be able to secure enough grower champagnes for its needs (although it’s not the first; Henri Giraud is also served in Korean Airlines First Class). After all, these are produced in very small batches, with the average grower producing 18,000 bottles per year. 

Then again, Suites and First Class is something of a niche product that’s only available on two aircraft (the A380-800 and B777-300ER), and in any case this is a limited-time offering, with each label getting just two month’s exposure. 

Therefore, I wouldn’t expect to see grower champagnes make an appearance in The Private Room either, where SIA currently serves just one option: 2012 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.

How can I find grower champagnes?

If you’d like to explore grower champagnes, one way to identify them is to look out for the letters RM on the bottle label.

Here’s a guide to what the letters mean:

  • NM – Négociant Manipulant: This is the most common labeling of them all, signifying that 94% or more of the fruit was purchased from external growers. Most House Champagnes will show ‘NM’ on the label.
  • CM – Coopérative Manipulant: This signifies that one single co-op produced this wine from numerous regional growers’ fruit. 
  • RM – Récoltant Manipulant: Bingo! This little labeling signifies that 95% or more of the fruit within the bottle was estate-grown and not purchased. AKA, RM = Grower Champagne. 
  • RC – Récoltant Coopérateur: This means that a vigneron (grower-producer) grew their fruit but used a co-op facility to vinify and brand their wine.

Source: Verve Wine

How does Singapore Airlines choose wines?

Taittinger Comtes De Champagne in First Class

Singapore Airlines wines are selected by a panel of three wine experts:

  • Michael Hill-Smith, Australia’s first Master of Wine
  • Jeannie Cho Lee, the first Asian Master of Wine
  • Oz Clarke, one of the world’s most celebrated and colourful wine authorities

This panel is responsible for recommending the wines and champagnes served on board SIA flights, which numbers 2.1 million bottles a year across all four cabins. 

Formal tastings are conducted regularly in Singapore, where over 1,000 bottles of red and white wines, champagnes and fortified wines are sampled in blind tastings.  Wines are judged on appearance, bouquet, and palate. Just like SIA’s food, wine tastings are also conducted in a pressurised room to simulate how the cabin environment will affect taste buds.

Some additional information, per an SIA-provided backgrounder:

SIA Wine Sourcing Process
 

In 2019, SIA introduced an extensive selection of boutique wine labels in a move to diversify its wine programme and provide greater variety for customers. Today, customers in Suites, First Class, and Business Class can enjoy the widest selection of Burgundy wines in the sky with over 52 labels rotated over a period of 18 months.

The introduction of boutique wine labels has been made possible due to SIA’s approach to sourcing wines, where SIA’s Wine Consultants personally visit boutique vineyards and wineries across different wine regions to taste and source for quality small-batch wines.

This approach enhances the traditional process of procuring wines through requests for  tenders, as smaller domaines and micro-negociants may previously have been unable to participate due to minimum quantity requirements for the tender process.

This direct market wine sourcing approach increases the variety of labels on rotation, including high-quality small-batch wines previously unavailable in-flight.

Depending on the routes, the wine selection offered in SIA’s Suites and First Class includes two brands of champagnes – Krug Grande Cuvée and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne – as well as wines from the Americas, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand

SIA’s red Burgundy is sourced from 33 vineyards classified as Grand Cru (Great Growth) and 535 vineyards classified as Premier Cru (First Growth). With more than 50 labels available, SIA is renowned for its largest Burgundy cellar in the sky.

For its Bordeaux, SIA serves the Second Growth in Suites and First Class as a permanent feature. There are only 14 Chateaux in Bordeaux classified as Second Growth under the Grand Cru classification of 1855.

In Business Class, the selection includes internationally award-winning pourings from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States of America. Port wine and premium champagnes are also served. Premier Cru white Burgundy and Cru Bourgeois red Bordeaux are regularly listed.

Customers in Premium Economy Class and Economy Class can enjoy a choice of quality red, dry, and aromatic white wines from various wine producing regions. Customers in Premium Economy Class can also enjoy champagne on board.

Conclusion

Singapore Airlines Suites and First Class passengers can look forward to a third champagne option from now till March 2024. A total of five labels will be served on rotation, including a debut for grower champagnes on SIA (at least I think it is; feel free to fact-check me on that).

While there’s no disputing the vintage of Krug and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (well, the Krug is technically NV), do make it a point to try the additional selections if you get the chance!

Anyone had a chance to try the new labels yet?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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