Emirates, the Gulf airline, has announced it has spent $500 million in its fine-wine operation during the last decade – a "long-term investment".
The company has purchased wines en primeur, and kept them in storage for up to ten years in its enormous cellar in Burgundy, in which at least 1.2 million bottles are kept.
President of the airline, Sir Tim Clark, said "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.
"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."
Among the standout beverages available are Dom Pérignon 2003 Rosé, as well as vintages from each of the five first-growths of Bordeaux.