Ao Yun 2013 is the inaugural release of the luxury Chinese red from the LVMH stable, owners of Dom Pérignon, Krug and Château d’Yquem. Destined perhaps to emulate the likes of Penfolds Grange in redefining the perception of fine wine production in a specific territory, this is a very interesting proposition.
Ao Yun roughly translates as “sacred cloud” and is a blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc from a tiny vineyard in the foothills of the Himalayas (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) specifically chosen after years of research. This is a new cuvée has immense pedigree and the buzz in the wine press makes it a very interesting addition to any portfolio.
LVMH's Jean-Guillaume Prats, of Cheval Blanc fame, explains that the vines are farmed by hand (or yak) organically: “There are no mechanics at all because it’s so remote, so everything is done by hand.” He goes on to say that: “It’s very rare and very difficult to produce with the level of human commitment involved.”
The wine has clearly impressed Jancis Robinson who said “many wines claim uniqueness; Ao Yun's claim is incontestable”, Decanter who gave it 94 points and The Wine Gang’s Jane Parkinson who wrote: “If I was scoring this for one of our reports I’d happily have given it a 94, maybe even a 95 or 96.”
As the first release of this flagship Chinese wine and with only 24,000 bottles made, this 2013 is set to become massively collectable.
Average critic rating : 92.75 points
A blend of 80-85% Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, whose fresh, leafy aroma made itself felt on the finish. Excellent, deep vibrant purplish crimson. Very intense with the exceptional clarity and intensity of a high-elevation wine like Ribera del Duero. Sumptuous nose but on the palate the acidity is evident with some extremely soft tannins. Very persistent and impressive. Not sweet but very good. Dec 2015, www.jancisrobinson.com, Drink: 2016-2022
A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, this is a bold, dramatic and compelling debut wine from winemaker Maxence Dulou. Particularly impressive is the strong sense and imprint of place which is partially revealed by its saturated colour, exquisite ripeness, silky, grainy tannins and exciting freshness. The palate also provides sweet black and red cherry fruit overlaid with cool graphite, camphor as well as notes of juniper, pepper and cumin. Most surprising of all is the 15.1% alcohol which is both balanced and well hidden in the texture and freshness. It’s difficult to predict how long the wine will age and develop. But all the elements are there for a long and happy life. Jun 2016, www.decanter.com, Drink: 2018-2035
Ao Yun: The Importance
Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, or LVMH, is the French multinational owner of an incredible repertoire of brands including Château d’Yquem, Château Cheval Blanc, Dom Pérignon, Ruinart, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie, Cloudy Bay, and of course Moët & Chandon and Hennessy. Ao Yun is their first wine brand enterprise in China, which puts it in one of the world’s most illustrious stables.
In 2013 China became the biggest market for red wine with consumption of over more than 1.8 billion bottles, making it a major global player in the world of wine. Ao Yun represents another step on that ladder with its first truly global luxury brand and as one newspaper has put it a chance to “drink Louis Vuitton!”
Decanter described this as “arguably most exciting magnum opus wine” of Jean-Guillaume Prat (former director at Château Cos d’Estournel and now president of LVMH’s estates and wine division). Decanter went on to say that: “a bright new start has just burst onto the fine wine firmament.”
Ao Yun: The Insight
Penfolds Grange redefined the perception of fine wine production in a specific territory. Ao Yun, LVMH’s inaugural Chinese release, may well be destined to emulate this for China.
Within the first couple of weeks of release, the market price of Ao Yun 2013 – the first vintage – rose by over 50%, displaying the market demand despite the fact that there were few scores or reviews from the critics. With only 24,000 bottles made and such high demand, this wine has already become highly collectable.
Although not the first Chinese wine, it is the first with such pedigree and one of the first to come from Yunnan rather than the traditional areas of Shandong or Ningxia. As Jancis Robinson, who compared the first vintage to Ribera del Duero, says: “many wines claim uniqueness; Ao Yun's claim is incontestable.” Its mountainous terroir is unlike any other in the world, providing an enormous diurnal temperature variation and a very long ripening period.
Ao Yun: The Background
Ao Yun roughly translates as “sacred cloud” or “proud cloud” – a reference to the altitude – and is a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with a little Cabernet Franc. Grapes are sourced from tiny vineyards either side of the Mekong River in the foothills of the Himalayas, located in a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area in Adong village, just on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, is a four and half hour drive from Shangri-La airport and the vineyards are at an altitude of around 2.5km above sea level.
LVMH found the location with some help from Australian oenologist Tony Jordan and according to Prats: “There are no mechanics at all because it’s so remote, so everything is done by hand.” The viticulturist Maxence Dulou gained experience at Cheval Blanc and farms the vineyards organically using yak. Vines were first planted in the area around the mid-1800s by Jesuit missionaries.
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