Emirates Airlines invests $500 million in its wine offerings

If you are feeling tipsy on an Emirates flight, chances are it’s not the turbulence, but rather the sheer amount of fine booze offered. Who knew your best wine tasting experience could be at 30,000 feet? Dubai-based Emirates Airlines, that’s who. They have spent the last 12 years and $500 million dollars on creating the best wine list in the sky.

The ever-changing and varied offerings depend on flight path and which vintage is best at a given time. Overall the numbers are dizzying; in 12-months, more than 300 vintages will be served, 70 different types of wine are flying across the airline’s network and 3,750,000 bottles of vino are stored in the Emirates’ own modern, temperature-controlled, light-deprived warehouse and at any given time. “Ours is more of a Fort Knox-style facility,” explains Joost Heymeijer, a senior vice president who runs the inflight catering service at Emirates.

Beyond the numbers he explains some of the other nuances that go into making the company’s offerings top notch. He explains special attention is paid to all things vino, such as pouring it at the right altitude and testing how altitude and cabin pressure affects taste.

“Just because you’ve got the money doesn’t mean you can buy,” said Heymeijer. “They want you to do justice to the wine.”

“The conditions inside our aircraft are the same as if you were in a mountain in the Swiss Alps,” he adds. “If you were in a restaurant in the Alps, you wouldn’t be asking a sommelier about the altitude.”

He also gets a leg up on other wine buyers to get the best vintages at the best prices. “We buy early, and we buy smart,” Heymeijer said. According to Bloomberg, some of the wines the airline bought many years ago for $350 would now run more than $2,000 a bottle.

In addition to paying attention to taste, quality and price, he also wants fliers to have a top shelf experience. As such the airline offers larger than normal champagne and wine glasses so passengers get a more generous pour. Wines are served decanted because those that fly Emirates should not be treated like savages.

“We serve Château Palmer in business class. Most airlines, you’d be lucky if they served that to you in first class,” Heymeijer said.

And it all seems to be paying off; over 9 million glasses of champagne were poured in-flight by the airline this past year alone. [Bloomberg]