Contrail

I am not a fan of flying for a number of reasons. First and possibly most annoying is the deceit: that is how sleek and sexy planes look from a far. I mean, not only are they defying gravity, circumventing traffic, or cutting travel times by a factor of 8 (this statistic was pulled out of absolutely nowhere), they are these majestic bullets seemingly cut from one perfect chunk of unblemished metal!

Up close, the façade barely holds. Planes are made from millions of “flimsy-looking” yet differing metal and carbon fibre composite pieces held together by bolts and glue; just like a very fancy door or table. Inside again its “cheap-looking” thermoplastic, thermoset resins, other composites and cramped spaces. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they make all kinds of strange noises that scream of anxiety as if the plane itself isn’t sure it should be in the skies. Then you get to see the moving parts; like the flaps, aileron and air brakes. 🙁 Can someone say clunky and exclusively functional?  Where’s the futuristic light show, the hidden compartments, the romance? It’s simply an ingeniously designed feat of engineering mastery with the sole focus of weight reduction and strength to keeps us from freezing to death thousands of feet above sea level. Yawn!!!! Not to mention the hospital grade toilets that always make me imagine being sucked into that miniscule vortex, with none the wiser until my luggage remains unclaimed.

It’s only saving grace are its meals, which I remarkably really enjoy, and the views. But then again, there’s the absolute boring nature of the entire flight. I mean you have only inches of room to contain yourself and your possessions. Plus, despite being the 21st century where you can pay all your bills in the luxury of your own abode wearing no pants and with only your cell phone, some planes still do not allow you to check your Whatsapp messages or even provide free Wi-Fi! I mean the barber I go to has uncapped internet! Surely there can’t be an excuse?

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Oh and not to forget the constant reminder of your “rightful” place behind the curtains with all the other phlebs, where choice is limited to at most two options; between cheap and cheaper. 😛 And the cheesy outdated movies or series with no sound…

For us oenophiles there’s the added disadvantage of the lack of humidity, low pressure and noise affecting our tasting abilities. Actually this applies to everyone. Your perception of sweet and salty drops by about 30 %, and you are physically unable to pick up aromas as your nasal passages dry up and the low pressure prevents aroma particles from rising, reduces the oxygen content and affects the beverage itself. Tannins are similarly accentuated as you are no longer producing as much saliva, which acts as natural protection to their abrasive nature. Only savoury characteristics and acidity does well in the air.

You are actually advised to drink wine as soon as possible when you get on the plane before all the effects have had enough time to take hold. So seating here in an SAA flight I’ve decided to test this for myself.

Shortly after take-off, I ordered a 2014 Douglas Green Chardonnay from DGB and 2012 Stonecross Pinotage from Deetlefs. Both are South African. The Chard initially had orange notes, cream, was slightly oxidative and short. The Pinotage tasted like cherry jam, with charred wood, vanilla and a sweetness on the palate.

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Over an hour later having taken no additional food or drink, I decided to try the wines again as my nose had begun feeling dry and irritated, which was translating into a faint yet unavoidable headache. The white wine had turned incredibly shy. The nose was merely vinous (smelling of wine and nothing else) with an incredibly hidden creamy character. The palate was sour and even shorter. It’s safe to say I didn’t finish the bottle (I apologise for saying this Chris). For the red, the nose was still very much discernable: jammy, smoke and caramel now. The palate, though, was harsh, bitter and had magnified the alternative oak woodiness. I couldn’t pick up the sweetness anymore, unless I had a bite of cheddar cheese before, whose proteins did the job of saliva.

Pleased with myself for having successfully occupied myself for about an hour or two, the take away was that as soon as your hind quarters are rested order all the wine they will give you and chug it all down like you were a teenager again. Later on you might as well finish your flight with a gin and tonic or rum and coke…

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Finally, I must commend the SAA Flight Crew. They all shared the curse of perfectly timed witty humour that blindsided me each and every time. Well played ladies and gentlemen. Courteously bows  😛

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