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superbly with all the pure-fruited and  negrained

elegance of a classic Margaux.

Vintage variation

Pontallier, who has been at Margaux for more

than 30 years, is also clear on what he feels

has been the biggest single development

of the past century. "It's the work in the

vineyards and our ability to harvest the

grapes at perfect maturity," he says. "We've

learnt to make this standard practice and

we're not afraid to let the acidity drop, which

explains why poor vintages like 1984, 1992

and 1994 are no more."

It also explains why the amount of Merlot

in wines such as those from Margaux is falling

fast. "We no longer need a proportion of

Merlot to produce the ripeness [in the wine]

to mask what was sometimes under-ripe

Cabernet Sauvignon," says Pontallier.

One of the vintages we taste is closed at

the moment, another is drinking beautifully,

while a third is drinking well - though

Pontallier predicts it will be so much better a

few years from now, in 2020.

Oliver Dixon, head of  ne wine and in

charge of the Emirates wine programme for

the past  ve years, is with us, sni› ng and

swirling vigorously, and scribbling away in his

notebook. The fact that Emirates is currently

serving a Palmer 1995 on one of its routes is

ample proof of just how patient the airline is

prepared to be in making sure wine is always

served at its optimum.

Waiting game

Most of the wines we try are currently sitting

in the Emirates cellars, and Dixon is keen to

see how they are showing, knowing that

many are not slated for his cabin lists for

another two to  ve years.

"Emirates purchased a number of parcels

of 2014 Bordeaux wines for both business

and  rst classes," Dixon tells me. "But these

wines will not be seen on board before 2022,

and some not until 2030."

Best of Bordeaux

CHÂTEAU COS D'ESTOURNEL 2005,

SAINT�ESTÈPHE

Charming nose of plum and black fruit,

wrapped in cigar box notes. Powerful, sweet,

peppery tannins, rich black fruit, and hints of

anise and liquorice. Concentrated, markedly

pure and fresh. Delicious long  nish.

CHÂTEAU HAUT�BRION 2006,

PESSAC�LÉOGNAN

Fine tannins and sweet, savoury concentration

are the hallmarks of this completely

harmonious, deeply textured wine. Fruitpacked

but sleek, too. Fresh long  nish.

CHÂTEAU LYNCH�BAGES 2005,

PAUILLAC

Fragrant nose full of luscious cassis and black

cherry fruit. Generous palate combining dense

fruit, earthy minerality and freshness.

A forward, show-stopping vintage that's

drinking superbly now.

CHÂTEAU SMITH�HAUT�LAFITTE 2008,

PESSAC�LÉOGNAN

Tobacco, spice, smoke and sweet cassis

underlie an aromatic nose. On the palate it

reveals ripe fruit, polished tannins, minerality

and an elegant long  nish.

CHÂTEAU LYNCH�BAGES BLANC 2014,

PAUILLAC

Ripe nose of citrus, grapefruit and pineapple.

Lovely acidity adding energy and drive to

a palate rich in layers of peach, melon and

pear, counterpointed with minerality. Clean

refreshing  nish.

CHÂTEAU MALARTIC�LAGRAVIÈRE

BLANC 2014, PESSAC�LÉOGNAN

White ­ owers juxtaposed with tropical kiwi

and lychee notes on the nose. Hedonistic

palate mixing pineapple, citrus and orange

with wet-stone minerality. Aged in 55% new

oak, with lots of lees complexity.

CHÂTEAU MARGAUX 2004, MARGAUX

Meaty, earthy, cigar box aromas. Super ripe

tannins and elegant, delicious red and black

fruit on the palate. Long  nish. Classic, elegant

Margaux, still in its infancy; drink from 2017.

CHÂTEAU MOUTON�ROTHSCHILD 2001,

PAUILLAC

Rich, sweet, inviting cassis nose underscored

with tobacco and spice notes. Elegant, but fullbodied

on the palate, with  rm but ripe tannin

structure. Textbook long  nish.

His approach means that passengers can

be given the choice between Vega Sicilia

2000 and Château Pavie 2004 on one ­ ight,

and Montrose and Penfolds St Henri on

another. This matters to an airline that values

customer loyalty.

"Emirates is not just an airline, it is a lifestyle

brand," says Heymeijer. "We are committed

to the highest levels of service and in-­ ight

entertainment, and, as well as the food, the

wine is a major part of the entertainment.

To us, and to many of our customers, wine is

an experience. Our customers want to enjoy

wine on board as if they are in a  ne dining

restaurant." I'll drink to that.

As well as looking after such an ambitious

cellaring programme and the di› culties of

sourcing scarce parcels, the Emirates team

has to also consider the logistical problems

of loading ­ ights correctly, the frequent

updating of menus and the training of cabin

crew. Wouldn't it have been a lot easier to

count the ­ ights, calculate the bottles needed

and put it all out to tender?

"We wanted to take control of our own

destiny," says Clark, who is closely involved

in all of the key buying decisions. "O€ ering

our customers opportunities to try the best

vintages of a wider variety of top names is all

part of the aim."

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