September 1, 2006
This Just In

On a flight to New York not long ago I asked an attendant, "What kind of wine are you serving?"

"It's just wine," I heard her say.

"Who makes it?" I asked.

"It's just wine," she repeated.

This exchange could have gone on clear across Nevada if she didn't then explain that that's the name of the company providing the wine - Just Wine. "Maybe it's because we promote ourselves as 'just an airline,'" she added.

About a year ago, JetBlue Airways Corp. named Joshua Wesson of Best Cellars, a chain of East Coast wine shops, the airline industry's first "low-fare sommelier." It's his task to select a couple of new wines for JetBlue every six months or so, and he didn't pick Just Wine because JetBlue is "just an airline."

Just Wines is a brand of French wine negociant Paul Sapin of Beaujolais. Eastbound, I had a bottle (187 mililiters, screwcap) of his pleasantly dry, lean and citric sauvignon blanc. Westbound, I tried the dark and ripe merlot, more fruity than herbal, with a dash of spice. Both wines are from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. Even in plastic cups, and even up against pretty salty snacks, their flavors held up. JetBlue sells each small bottle for $5.

Later, I called Joshua Wesson to ask how he goes about selecting the wines served aboard JetBlue. He said he's free to choose whatever varietals from whatever regions he'd like. Because the aromatic properties of wine tend to evaporate more quickly in a pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet than at sea level he's compelled to find wines that aren't exactly shy.

"If the wines are modest aromatically or in their flavor profile, they will taste somewhat diminished (at 30,000 feet). So I look for wines that are fairly extroverted and dramatic in their presentation of flavors, so they don't end up dumb and dull," explains Wesson.

As to coming up with wines able to weather the high flavors of the snacks aboard JetBlue, he says, "I try to find Boutros Boutros-Ghali wines, able to make peace with a wide range of foods. The wines have to be broad in their ability to please the palate, whether the food be a sandwich or a snack."

Next month he will introduce two California wines on JetBlue flights, a chardonnay and a merlot from 3 Blind Moose Cellars of Lodi.

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