Sampling 17 champagne varieties for breakfast? It's all in a day's work for Delta's Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson who, earlier this month, thoughtfully hand selected the airline's 2017 on-board line up.
Robinson's wine selection—a year-round process that includes tastings in the air and on the ground – culminates annually at the Atlanta General Offices where, this year, she tasted from a selection of more than 1,300 wines.
The wines represent global varietals from major wine labels and small boutique wineries alike and featured many of the key wine producing regions of the world including Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and South Africa as well as California and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
While Robinson looks out for great wines throughout the year and keeps track of candidates that she believes would be great for the wine program, many were also submitted by wine makers eager to vie for a spot on one of Delta's premium wine lists.
For Robinson, creating a wine experience on board is a labor of love. By tasting with the fine-tuned palate required to match the on-board environment, she narrowed down the wines which will be featured from March 2017 through February 2018. The wines will be offered on all Delta One flights, including international transoceanic flights and flights between John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport/ San Francisco International Airport, with special selections for premium markets. Additionally, a South American wine program will be featured on board to support Delta's continued focus in Latin America.
"The 2017 Delta One line up is going to be the best one ever," she said. "I didn't think we could top last year, but we have some absolute benchmark blue chip wines that people will be putting in their cellars if they're wine collectors – it's that good. We have some real emerging and cutting edge wines that will be the talk of the town and also some wines that are on trend like a dry rosé for summer."
Following her selection process, Delta hosted a wine auction for employees, giving them an opportunity to bid on lots curated by Robinson to benefit the Delta Care Fund. This year, the auction raised $35,000 which will be used to provide assistance to eligible Delta employees, retirees and their survivors who suffer a severe financial hardship from an unforeseen and unavoidable crisis, including loss due to a disaster or catastrophic event.
Delta One customers can currently enjoy summer-inspired dishes with a glass of red or white wine from the 2016 wine program, now rotating seasonally on the same schedule as the airline's menus.
Robinson has been the brains behind Delta's wine selections since 2007 and is one of only thirty women worldwide to hold the title of Master Sommelier. She is the only woman ever designated as the Best Sommelier in the U.S. by the Sommelier Society of America and is the winner of three James Beard awards. She is an honors graduate of the French Culinary Institute, and in 2004 was also named Wine and Spirits Professional of The Year by Bon Appétit.
To enhance the on-board customer experience, Delta partnered with Robinson to launch its Sky Sommelier program in 2012. The program is an online series of learning courses designed for flight attendants to increase knowledge and enhance skills around Delta's wines and their onboard presentation. Through the course, flight attendants learn how to bring the wine experience to life for Delta's customers. Since inception more than 1,000 flight attendants have graduated from the course, which was originally open to international flight attendant leaders. Later this year, Delta will open the program to all 22,000 flight attendants.