"Flight" - as in a wine or other sampling

Where does this use of “flight” come from, what is its exact definition? I looked it up in the OED and this use of the word is not listed (in my edition).

I’ve seen restaurant menus using this for more than just wines; I’ve seen dessert flights, vodka flights, beer flights, cupcake flights, soup flights, etc.

that’s a tough one, here’s what I can basically find. A Flight refers to "Several sample glasses of a specific wine varietal. The pours are smaller than a full glass and the flight will generally include three to five different samples. "

this from both Wiktionary http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/flight
and Red Hat Micro-Winery http://www.redhatwine.com/wine-flights/

Can’t find anythign that actually refers to the etymology of the word, though (and yea, the OED was useless in this case)

Flight, as in flight of stairs, can mean series. That’s a possible connection.

I always thought it was a fitting term, even without knowing the specific etymology. Must have been the behavior of the sommelier at that San Francisco eatery.

One description I’ve seen is how it’s like climbing a flight of stairs as you step through the glasses in sequence.

Flights are almost always a series of tastes of a particular wine, such as the 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1994 Zinfandels from Zotti Vineyards. The main point is that it’s a thematic or structured tasting, as opposed to going to a winery’s tasting room and tasting samples of their offerings starting with the whites and ending with the reds, only because their Cabernet is so tannic that it will turn your face inside-out and you won’t be able to taste anything after it.

In my experience at restaurants the flight are thematic only to the point where they tend to be white or red. No series of a particular wine. That may be true at a winery, but I haven’t seen it in restaurants.

It’s good to know it’s not just that I’m missing something. I’ve looked in a couple dictionaries and none of them have this usage. It must have been coined recently.

gotpasswords idea about a flight of stairs makes sense, I hadn’t thought of that. But it’s strange how universal the term has become since it doesn’t have a clear precedent.

My Oxford Desk Dictionary has “Flight” defined as “a series, especially of stairs” in the 1995 edition.

We also use the word in debate tournaments to designate debates happening in the same room, one right after another.

That’s been my experience too. Even if a restaurant had multiple, sequential vintages of a coveted wine, they aren’t going to be able to justify the cost of pouring a flight from them unless the table is willing to buy all the bottles.

Also in my experience that type of tasting tends to be called a “vertical tasting” or a “vertical flight”.

The several fine dining establishments I have worked at generally would do some kind of predetermined combination of four two-ounce pours of either two whites and two reds, or all whites or all reds, generally presented in front of the customer in order of body and tannic strength from left to right, with the last wines always being the most full-bodied.

This way the customer enjoys their first wine as an apertif or with lighter fare like a seafood appetizer or a salad, and progress through the flight, usually ending up with the fullest-bodied wine with their entree, which tends to be richer/fuller than the rest of the meal.

Flights are a nice way to try some wines without buying/consuming a whole bottle, and a good way to pair your wine and food together. It gives you some versatility.