Sky High Excellence
If you’re passionate about wine, then becoming a member of the elite Singapore Airlines Wine Panel could be considered the ultimate dream job.
Up to 1,000 bottles of wines, champagne, and port are sampled by the panel every year, judged not only on appearance (colour and clarity), bouquet (smell) and palate (taste), but also on their suitability for drinking onboard an aircraft, where the atmosphere tends to be drier. Guests aboard the distinguished airline enjoy wines from the very best vineyards, sourced from the most famous wine regions during two formal blind tastings held annually in Singapore.
The exclusive three-member panel includes Michael Hill-Smith, a wine consultant, wine judge, writer and commentator. In 1988, he became the first Australian to pass the rigorous Master of Wine examination and won the Madame Bollinger Tasting Medal that same year. He established the highly rated Shaw and Smith winery with his cousin Martin Shaw in the Adelaide Hills in 1989. As the current Australian Regional Chairman for the Decanter World Wine Awards, Smith has extensive tasting experience in numerous international and Australian wine shows.
Originally from London, Steven Spurrier is a leading authority and author on wine. His illustrious career includes founding the first Paris wine school, L’Academie du Vin. He created and manages the Christie’s Wine Course and is Consulting Editor for Decanter Magazine. In 2011, he was inducted into the Wine Media Guild of New York’s prestigious Wine Writers’ Hall of Fame in recognition of his achievements as a wine author, journalist and educator. He has contributed to Singapore Airlines as a wine consultant for over two decades.
In 2009, Hong Kong resident Jeannie Cho Lee joined the panel. Jeannie is the first Asian to be awarded the Master of Wine title, an honor held by less than 300 people worldwide. She is a wine critic, judge, educator and the award-winning author of ‘Asian Palate’. Her book won the Gourmand award for Best Food and Wine Pairing Book in the World and was shortlisted for the UK’s prestigious Andre Simon award. She is a consultant for Galaxy Macau and has been awarded the Vinitaly International Award for her contributions to the wine industry by the organizers of Vinitaly, the largest wine trade fair in the world.
When asked about how it feels to be part of such a coveted trio, she says, “This particular opportunity to judge a thousand wines every year for Singapore Airlines is a wonderful way also to make sure that I’m continuing to keep my palate fresh, to judge, and to give feedback, because the choices that we make as a wine consultant has an effect on what is served, and what people enjoy, so there is a strong sense of responsibility.”
Together, the panel is responsible for recommending the wines, champagnes and port to be served in all classes and on all routes flown by Singapore Airlines. Acting upon the panel’s advice, the airline stocks reserves for serving in the future. Their favored champagnes include Dom Perignon and Krug Grande Cuvee. Specially featured wines include Grand Cru Red Burgundy from France, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Second Growth Red Bordeaux. To aid in the overall experience, the cabin crew is also taught the essentials of wine appreciation during their initial training, including how and where different wines are produced as well as the unique characteristics of different wines. Those interested in acquiring more wine knowledge are encouraged to progress to advanced courses conducted by wine professionals, leading to positions as Singapore Airlines Air Sommeliers. And if the odds are in their favor, maybe one day following in the footsteps of the renowned wine panel.