As regular readers will know, I produce a weekly podcast and YouTube channel. There have been requests for a transcription of the content, but this is very time-consuming even using a special transcription tool as they are far from accurate. Nearly all the material from the shows is available in different forms on the website, but where it is not, I am working on trying to get the material transcribed, but it will be a long process to catch up as well as keeping current.
Since this week I have written about the trip I took with British Airways to sample their new wines, I thought it would be apt also to publish the transcription of the interview with BA’s Master of Wine, Tim Jackson.
This Week In Travel episode 24 – Interview with Tim Jackson
This week we have a special episode. I’m coming to you live from Chateau d’Esclans, which is the Chateau of Whispering Angel in France in the south of France. I’ll be talking to Tim Jackson, who is BA’s new master of wine.
So, I’m here in the south of France at the Chateau d’Esclans, which is Whispering Angel Chateau, with Tim Jackson, who is British Airways’ relatively new master of wine.
Michele: Thank you, Tim, for joining me in such a beautiful location.
Tim: My pleasure. What a place to be. Absolutely delightful.
Michele: And thank you for inviting me along. So Tim and I are here in the South France, tasting some wines that are going be onboard and also in the terminals. It’s not a bad job if you can get it!
I thought we’d start by talking about how you started off being a master of wine because like me, this is your, I think, third career and something you are obviously very passionate about. So how did you get from your original career and tell us a bit about being a master of wine and what that involves?
Tim: You’re absolutely right. This is my third career. So, I started my career several years ago in business strategy consulting. And then I moved into marketing, but ultimately I’ve really followed my passion and made my passion my job because then, you kind of don’t work a day in your life, as it were! That passion started right back at in at University – coming to visit parts of France and turning up at nine o’clock in the morning in Chablis and, and in Burgundy and, and working from there really. I started to learn more, taste more and so on and then after a few years, decided to take a qualification, as I thought I probably ought to know what I’m talking about a bit more. Over time I did more qualifications until I joined the Master of Wine Study program in 2013 and qualified four years later. So, and then once I had this qualification, which is like the Everest of wine, you know, you climb it because it’s there, or I did anyway.
I thought I probably should do something with this. So, at the time, I was one of 375 masters of wine, now there are 414 of us.
At that point, I thought I probably should do something with this and follow my passion, make my passion my job. The Master of Wine qualification is tough. It takes a lot of work to get there. It’s a minimum of three years of study, and you would’ve done studies before that as well. So when I did have it, it kind of made sense to make use of it, beyond just enjoying wine so much. I’ve done some wine writing and some consulting work, and ultimately joined BA, first as a consultant and then full-time from February last year.
As far as I’m aware, I’m the only master of wine who works full-time for an airline although there are some of my colleagues who, for example, do consulting work for some of the other airlines. But as far as I know, I’m the only master of wine that’s employed full-time.
Michele: That’s great. British Airways is obviously really investing heavily in trying to get the right wines for their customers. So when you are putting together a wine list, and let’s focus first on Club World, what is it you are looking for when choosing a wine and building that wine list?
Tim: Well, first and foremost with the wine has got to be good, it goes without saying, but it is really important to get the best quality that we can so customers can really enjoy every glass, but the second thing is to make sure it’s a wine that’s also going to perform at altitude. So in the cabin, particularly, the air is much drier, it dries out your nose, and your nose and your sense of smell are almost the most important things when you’re eating or drinking anything.
All the fruity components of the wine get a little bit suppressed. So you want to make sure that you’ve got wine at ground level that has plenty to it. So when you go to altitude, it still performs, will be in balance and still give the pleasure that we’re looking for. Particularly for Club World where the structure of our wine is two white wines and two red wine, within that relatively small set, we are trying to appeal to as many people as possible. So we’re trying to give a spread of styles of wine that are likely to be crowd-pleasing too, and that’s why we have, for example, a standing category where you’ll always have a Sauvignon Blanc on board, and you’ll always have a Pinot Noir.
So, Sauvignon Blanc has got that bright, fruity style that tends to appeal to quite a lot of people. So you’ve got that style that’s going to get the mass appeal, not, but not everyone likes that, and the good thing about it is it’s quite a different style than the other white wine is likely to be.
So, it gives me an opportunity to get, again, a broad spread of styles that are likely to get as much appeal as possible and also to match food with. There are many different types of food that we might have flying at any one time and similarly with pinot noir, again, it tends to have a pretty good core of fruit, so it’s going perform altitude, and it should appeal to most.
The second is that with red wines, one thing that can challenge some consumers, some drinkers is the tannins. So that’s the element that dries your gums like a cup of builder’s tea does. Some people like tannins, some people don’t, and pinot tends to have relatively light, delicate tannins.
So it would be a red wine that appeals to drinkers who are like a lighter Italian style. And also, again, it’s likely to be a good contrast with my other red. So that’s why we’re structuring the wine like that to get as broad spread as possible.
Michele: And how much do British Airways destinations influence your choices of wine?
Tim: Well, funny enough, of all the things that I’ve brought in, in the last year or so, this is one I’m particularly proud of. The theme for the other white wine and other red wine in Club, and indeed the third white and third red in First is what I call my Destinations program. Each quarter for that set of four wines, we focus on one particular destination that British Airways flies to that makes great wine. Something that’s true about a lot of the wine world is wine places generally tend to be really nice places to be. I mean, we can see it here in Provence, right?
So I wanted to connect what we do as a business, which is to take people to lovely places, to our wines, and showcase wines from lovely places. Then wherever you’re flying with us around the world, you’ll be presented with wines from that designated place for the quarter. It gives a bit of focus but also hopefully gives people a bit of inspiration to come and come and visit beautiful wine countries. We started, in January, the first quarter of the year, with wine from Cape Town, where we fly direct, overnight from London. The Cape Winelands, as I think, you know, they’re really close to the airport. They’re beautiful places, lovely granite mountains, restaurants, accommodations and vineyards.
Lovely people, lovely food, fantastic place. So it’s a really lovely connection between what we do as a business with the wine list that we’re presenting. The reason why we’re here is that the destination for quarter three will be the Rhone Valley and Provence. BA fly to Lyon, Nice and Marseille and within that triangle, we have some of France’s great rich reds and interesting rosés.
Michele: It’s funny, I was flying to Cape Town earlier in the year. I looked at the wine list and club and thought, well, that’s funny. They’ve matched the destination to where the wines are, but of course, in fact, that was your choice for all of those in January.
And, for those watching and listening, if you haven’t been to Cape Town and you fancy it, we do have an episode just about Cape Town visiting the Winelands then.
So moving on, Tim, from Business class into First, when I fly, I notice there’s always a Red Bordeaux. What’s the structure of the first wine list like, and how do you choose wines there?
Tim: So, in First, just as in the club world, we always have a standing category of seven pinot noir and, indeed, my destinations wines too. But on top of that, we have it in whites. We always have a white Burgundy, and in reds, we always have a cru class red Bordeaux and, and that’s really a reflection of those markers of fine wine and luxury. It’s certainly true for British drinkers and for a lot of other wine lovers around the world, that Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne are almost, the pinnacles of fine wine, and so we want to have those as standard categories. These wines have those moments of recognition and that sense of indulgence that is absolutely right to have in First.
So those are our standard categories, and you always have the structured, savoury, but sophisticated style of Red Bordeaux that pairs so well with food. Then you are going to gonna get a little bit of richness, but with that cut of lemon and fruit in your mouth that so typical from Chardonnay from Burgundy. So it’s an important part of the First proposition. And again, it gives us more different styles.
So if you look at pinot noir and, you’ve got the cru class, a Bordeaux. Again, you’ve got differences of style so that you can appeal to as many people as possible.
Michele: And earlier, you were saying about the dessert wines as well that normally when I fly, it tends to be Sauternes, but you’ve got plans hopefully to have some slightly different wines for different parts of the world.
Tim: We will do so generally our dessert wine, so we, we have a dessert wine, and of course, we have port as well. Lovely.
For that dessert wine, generally, more often, you’re gonna find it sour. It’s a, it’s that lovely opulent style that’s, again, so, so, so famous around the world. But we, we do, and we’ll include some classic dessert wine from other parts of the world. So we’ve got Dubai, flying in very near future.
So from Hungary, the very famous Hungarian sweet wine, and we’ll be on the lookout for interesting sweets around the world. I’ll give you some recommendations.
Michele: recommendations? cause I love dessert wine, I might have to book a flight now so I can have some on board.
So moving on from the wines to other dyou’re involved in choosing spirits and, and involved in, looking at cocktails. First of all, to go to the hot question of the day for my readers that are cognac lovers, we’ve got cognac back in First, which I’ve been enjoying recently. How is the situation looking? Cause I know there’s a shortage of cognac in trying to get it back into Club.
Tim: Yeah, there, you’re absolutely right there. There is a bit of a shortage of cognac. We’re working on it, and we will be bringing it back. So watch this space.
Michele: That’s excellent news for me as well as a cognac lover, I’m looking forward to having a sip on board again. So if we look at cocktails, then you’ve had a partnership with Mr. Lyan, which I’ve been lucky enough to try quite a few and I met Mr. Lyan on a previous trip with British Airways, and you have some cocktails on board like your Johnny Ginger that I’ve noticed you’ve had on social media recently. Have you got plans to refresh those? Because obviously, they’ve been around a while now.
Tim: Absolutely, yes. you’re absolutely right that Mr Lyan has done some really interesting work with cocktails on the ground. We are actively looking at how we refresh our cocktail range as well right now. So, again, watch this space, obviously, we’re not going to be reproducing a full bar service on the aircraft because there isn’t the space, but we’re absolutely going to be refreshing that range in the near future.
Michele: Great. I look forward to trying something new on board next time I’m flying in Club.
So just finally, I know we’re talking about new things you have and there is something exciting on the horizon at Terminal five. Do you want to talk a little bit about that, given where we are currently sitting?
Tim: Yes. The context of our location is important for that. So, we’re in Chateau D’Esclans who are the producers, as you said earlier, of Whispering Angel, perhaps the most famous rosé wine brand in the world, and we are delighted to be partnering with them to launch a Whispering Angel Bar in Heathrow T5B in the coming months. So this is part of the celebration for that.
Also as part of our destination focus for Rhone and Provence. We’re not just having a white and a red in First. We’re having white, a rosé and a red in First, and we’re gonna be flying for July, August and September just in time for the summer months, Rock Angel, which is Whispering Angel’s kind of big brother in a leather jacket as they say, so one to look out for when you’re flying this summer.
Michele: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Tim not only for talking to me today but for bringing me to this amazing chateau in France. It’s a tough job, but you know, we have to soldier on and thank you for all your insight, and I look forward to trying all the new wines in the future.