Last month, private aviation specialist ConnectJets showcased its new baby, the Avanti EVO jet, at London City Airport Jet Centre. A twin turboprop from Piaggio Aerospace, the EVO is the fastest and one of the greenest planes in its class, burning half as much fuel as a Learjet 45 over the same flight time, with operating costs around 40 per cent lower. While “environmentally friendly private aviation” might seem like a contradiction in terms, the aptly named EVO is an evolution in ecologically responsible luxury, and for its showcase I was invited as inflight sommelier to present wines for the occasion, selected for their performance at altitude.
In a previous series of tasting experiments with ConnectJets, I had established that altitude, cabin compression and the quality of the air all affect the character of a wine, as well as our senses (the dry cabin air makes our taste buds go numb), and identified styles that were better able to withstand those effects and perform best in the air. I then came up with guidelines for wine choices that are as impressive at 10,000ft as they are at sea level.
For the launch of the EVO, I wanted to reflect the plane’s Italian craftsmanship and advanced eco technology with a selection of environmentally conscious wines with a decidedly Italian theme. But first, the plane itself…
The EVO has a sleek, muscular look, like a seal, complete with whiskers in the form of the fixed front wing, which reduces drag, improves fuel economy and looks like David Niven’s moustache. All good. For a small plane (usually configured for eight passengers), it’s surprisingly capacious inside and has been designed with both comfort and aesthetics in mind. There is very little hunching over or tucking in of elbows, even if you are built like former England rugby prop Jason Leonard, who was a guest on one of the day’s flights; the wings are set to the rear of the plane, so there is nothing to obstruct the view; and because the propellors are behind you and pointing backwards it’s more peaceful than you might expect.
For WineChap’s selections of the Italian wines that performed under pressure, Part Two will be published on 16 November.
Tom Harrow is a fine wine commentator, consultant and presenter. His Grand Crew Classé is the ultimate invitation-only club for fine wine enthusiasts, with exclusive access to rare bottles and events around the world. twitter.com/winechapuk.