On any given day, over 60 different wines, champagnes and ports, sourced from the best vineyards in 11 countries, are served onboard Emirates to passengers in all classes.
Representing a long-term investment of over US$500 million to date, Emirates’ wine programme is a critical component of its inflight dining experience. As with every aspect of its service, wine selection and planning is undertaken with meticulous care.
Experience not commodity
Rather than depend on intermediary buyers, Emirates’ own team of experts has built relationships directly with some of the world’s most prestigious chateaus and vineyards to handpick and secure the wines served onboard.
“To us, wine is an experience. Our customers want to enjoy wine onboard as if they were in a fine dining restaurant. It’s not just red, white, or rosé. They are interested in where the grape comes from, the vintage, the vineyard’s heritage and so on. That is why over a decade ago, we moved away from the usual corporate procurement process and decided to take control of our own destiny,” said Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline.
“We could have taken the easy way out – just do the maths for how many bottles we’d need in each cabin class over a year, then put it up for tender. But with the scale of our operations, this would limit our choices as not many producers can offer the quantities we’d need, at the quality standards that we’d want. We’d rather buy the best wines we can get in smaller lots, and offer our customers more opportunities to try the best vintages, even though this requires a lot more work in terms of operational logistics from the loading of flights and menu updates, to the training of our cabin crew.”
Emirates has a dynamic strategy of buying wines, and an intensive programme to secure the best vintages for future consumption by buying en primeur – often before the wines are bottled and released to the market.
The airline currently has over 1.2 million bottles of wines aging in its cellar in Burgundy, France. Some of these vintages will only be ready for consumption in a decade’s time.
“The thing about wine is that each vintage is finite. Therefore we want to get in early to secure the best stock for our customers. Over the years, we have developed very strong relationships with the best, as well as the most promising producers in all the main wine regions. That helps open the doors for us to get the best picks.
“Sure, it is a big investment. But wine and champagne will always be an important aspect of our onboard product therefore we take a long term view. It is simply part of our rigorous planning process. Just as we know how big our fleet will be and where these aircraft will fly, we know what wines we are going to serve in each class on a particular route in four years’ time,” said Sir Tim.
Red: at the heart of Emirates’ wine lists
At the heart of Emirates’ cellar are wines from the Bordeaux region in France, accounting for almost half of the airline’s total wine portfolio. With labels from France’s most prestigious vineyards including Château Lafite, Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton-Rothschild, Emirates’ cellar is a wine connoisseur’s dream.
Emirates’ selection criteria not only takes into account the quality of wine and how it is paired with the food served onboard, but also how it is likely to react to altitude when served at 35,000 feet in the air.
“Our wine lists consistently showcase classic French wine, in particular those that are made for pairing with food. Most of these vintages come from renowned chateaus that resonate with our customers. The French reds provide ‘an anchor’ for our wine lists, around which we build a balanced selection of regions and styles, so our customers will always have options for wines that they would enjoy with a meal, on its own, and or as an accompaniment to desert,” said Sir Tim.
In addition to French labels, Emirates also offers an exciting selection of New World wines from Australia, New Zealand, California (USA), and other wine-producing regions of the world.
Emirates’ customers in First Class can expect Dom Perignon champagne, one of world’s leading vintage champagnes on almost every one of our flights. As a special treat for a limited time, we will be serving Dom Perignon 2003 Rosé on A380 flights to San Francisco and Houston in December. The 2003 vintage was a real challenge for its creation due to extremes in weather conditions. After an unusually harsh, dry winter, severe frost devastated the grape crop. This was followed by the hottest summer in 53 years. The grapes that miraculously survived the frost and hail were then subject to scorching heat. However, the grapes harvested were mature and healthy, comparable to those of the legendary 1947, 1959 and 1976 harvests. The resulting intensity is unique and paradoxical, hovering between austerity and generosity.