The Ao Yun vineyards – Moët Hennessy’s Chinese project – are some of the world’s most dramatic and extreme, towering at over 2,000 metres’ altitude over the Mekong. This is undoubtedly the best vintage to date, with each one showing a leap forward in quality as the team gets to know this unique terroir. The 2017 vintage was challenging and the latest harvest to date, with Estate Manager Maxence Dulou deciding to pull back on extraction – something that you can feel in the elegant texture here. The lifted nose is a little wild – with a savoury earthiness, garrigue-like herbs and a crushed-rock minerality. On the palate, there’s remarkable purity and concentration, with a crunch of crystalline redcurrant and blackcurrant fruit bringing real vibrancy to complement the wine’s bramble richness. The texture of this wine is what really stands out, however. There’s a softness and precision here, with extraordinarily fine, seamless tannins. The acidity is mouth-wateringly fresh and saline, balancing the wine’s intensity.
FINE+RARE (May 2021)
Another step up in quality from 2016. Lots of blackberry and blueberry aromas with plenty of richness and ripeness on the nose. Spicy notes, too with dried chili, sweet tobacco and some pine. Very aromatic. Full-bodied and round with creamy, ripe tannins and lots of ripe fruit. Yet, it remains fresh and vivid. A little bit of merlot in the blend for the first time Mostly cabernet sauvignon with cabernet franc, syrah, petit verdot and merlot. Delicious now, but will age nicely. It’s more approachable than the 2016 now. Superb length here. Give it time in the bottle. Better after 2025. 3,000 cases made.
James Suckling (April 2021)Score: 97/100
The 2017 Ao Yun is a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 4% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot (this latter used for the first time in Ao Yun). Although a relatively cool and wet growing season, the 2017 vintage benefited from a warm August with less cloud cover, and around 60% of the crop from 314 blocks of 28 hectares worked by 120 families from 4 different villages was deemed of Ao Yun quality. The precision of the viticulture is certainly paying dividends, providing winemaker Maxence Dulou with increasingly healthy, high-quality fruit. The 2017 Ao Yun has a very deep ruby appearance. It is extremely young on the nose and palate, with dark brooding cassis, black cherry and black plum fruit that is both perfumed and gently herbaceous (hints of green bell pepper and blackcurrant leaf). There is marked new oak (clove, toast, smoke) that marries impressively with the ripe core of fruit. On the palate, the wine has robust but refined, coating tannins, well-integrated high alcohol, some lifting acidity and a tremendous core of ripe, powerful fruit that harmonizes well with the savory new oak. This is undeniably long and polished and has that Ao Yun "puissance" that characterizes all vintages to date. 2017 shares with 2015 an impressive integration of ripe Cabernet-dominated fruit with robust structure, but the use of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot has given a greater fruitiness and touch of spice to the 2017. This is certainly a vintage that is very young at present and will easily age for 15 years or more. Best approached from 2021 at the earliest.
Edward Ragg, Wine Advocate (December 2020)Score: 94/100Drink 2021-2032