You probably haven’t heard of Tim Jackson, but he has one of the most important jobs in the UK travel industry – he’s in charge of the drinks selection on all British Airways flights, from economy to first class. And in the carrier’s lounges.
It means that his decisions will affect whether a holiday gets off on the right foot for millions of people. After all, for many, that first sip of wine, beer or gin and tonic at the airport or in-flight signals the official start of the getaway.
Luckily, the nation’s taste buds and its holiday vibes are in good hands, because Tim is a ‘Master of Wine’, one of only 415 worldwide.
Tim became BA’s first-ever resident master of wine last December, with his expertise rapidly bearing fruit – he chose a wine honoured with gold in the ‘Best First Class Red’ category in the Cellars In The Sky awards 2022.
The wine in question was a Teusner ‘The Riebke’ Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2019, from Australia’s Barossa Valley, which retails at around £20 to £22 a bottle.
Tim Jackson, above, is British Airways’ first-ever resident master of wine
Tim told MailOnline Travel that ‘Shiraz from the Barossa Valley gets really good intense fruit’, adding that ‘the tannins are mid-level but ripe and fine and likely to be appealing at altitude’.
You might reasonably wonder why a wine that appeals at ground level wouldn’t automatically taste delicious at 35,000ft. It’s not a given because, as Tim explains, strange things happen to taste and smell sensations mid-flight.
He also reveals how he makes sure passengers aren’t served a dud wine as a result.
He says: ‘At altitude, mainly the dryness of the cabin reduces your perception of aromas and flavours – particularly fruitiness. What that then does is, as that fruitiness comes down, all the other textural components in the structure of wines, such as acidity, the alcohol, and in red wines the tannins – the stuff that dries your gums – they become more prominent, more evident.
‘So, what I’m looking at in a wine… does it have more of the fruit component? Because at altitude, that’s going to come down a bit, and also, especially with red wines, I’m focussed on the level of the tannins and the quality of the tannins – are they course or fine? I’m looking for as fine as possible, supple – and likely to be silky and pleasant when they become more obvious.
Tim revealed that at altitude the dryness of the cabin reduces your perception of aromas and flavours
LIKE A SAUVIGNON BLANC? TIM HAS THE PERFECT PICK
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the world’s most popular white wines and Tim put what he believes is a standard bearer for this variety on the first-class wine list – Dog Point, from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. He says: ‘Dog Point is by the same guys who founded Cloudy Bay and is one of, if not the best producers of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a benchmark wine and a delight to have in First.’
‘And you don’t want something that’s obviously alcoholic, because the perception of it will go up at altitude.
‘So it’s all about how much fruit you can taste.
‘I’m looking for a balance in the wine that’s likely to be balanced at altitude as well.’
BA customers can rest assured that the process for deciding what wines are served is extremely rigorous for all cabins.
Tim says: ‘We find suppliers, we go through a rigorous blind-tasting process, we assess them, get the right balance and make a selection to give a broad range of styles, or as broad as we can, and we’re aiming for the best quality that we can get into the bottle. It’s the same process for economy as it is for “turning left”.’
When we meet Tim for a chat at British Airways’ Heathrow headquarters his passion for the job is evident.
But why did he take it?
He adds: ‘BA is the flag carrier. Why wouldn’t you want to help shape what the airline is doing? What gets me out of bed in the morning is that the decisions I’m making or shaping can gently influence or hopefully improve the drinking experiences of millions of people. That’s magic.’
British Airways has announced plans for an exclusive Whispering Angel rosé bar, inviting customers to enjoy the refreshing French tipple ahead of their flight from Heathrow Terminal 5. Opening this summer, the bespoke bar will be located in the British Airways lounge near the B gates at London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Terminal 5B).
Prefer something English and fizzy? BA has you covered. Currently, an English sparkling is available on board – Digby Fine English Brut NV. From July, the airline will serve the Balfour Rosé de Noirs, grown on the Balfour Hush Heath Estate in Kent, and made only from red grapes. This lighter rosé sparkling wine is an exclusive blend for British Airways, making it only available at 35,000ft for customers in the airline’s Club World (business) cabin.
Digby Fine English Brut NV is currently being served on BA flights in business class