Here’s a way to vastly improve the taste of wine on an airplane. Shake it.
The benefits of letting red wine aerate are long established by sommeliers. Decanting wine for a few hours before drinking allows volatile substances in the wine to evaporate and oxygen to enter the liquid, causing the wine to seem “more expressive, more aromatic and better integrated” according to Wine Spectator.
Wine naturally can taste more alcoholic and bitter in flight because of the altitude and the dryness of the cabin air. But none of the usual decanting methods is advisable on an airplane—traditional decanting takes too long, pouring back and forth between two cups is a drippy proposition, and blenders are not allowed in carry-on baggage in the US.
Shaking your wine in its bottle is the viable alternative.
Before you get started, there are some practical considerations. If you’re sitting up front—in first or business class—this generally isn’t for you. This is for travelers who get their airplane wine in a single-serving resealable plastic bottle to pour themselves.
First, when you shake the bottle, be sure that you’re not shaking your whole body. Your seat is connected to the person’s next to yours and shared—through the tray table and pocket—with the person behind you. You want to do this without disturbing either of them.
Second, be sure the cap on the wine is on tight. The last thing you want to do is throw wine over everyone in a six-seat radius. Test the seal on the recapped wine by slowly turning the bottle upside down over your napkin and giving a light shake. If you have any doubt about the ability of the bottle to hold your wine as you shake, don’t shake it.
Start by pouring a little bit of wine out of the bottle and into your cup. To reduce the risk of spilling it, drink this wine before you get to shaking—try to ignore how poor it tastes. Now that there is some extra space in your bottle, shake it for 45 seconds to a minute. If this gets tiring, try shaking for 15 seconds at a time.
That’s it. The acerbic flavors that were there before should have floated away. Hopefully your tastebuds are still responsive enough to taste the difference. Pour and enjoy your flight.