Luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy (LVMH) has released the first vintage of Ao Yun: a wine they hope will be a landmark product in China’s quest to produce world class wine.
Ao Yun (“roaming cloud”) is grown in four villages in Deqin, in Yunnan province—a remote locale in China’s deep Southwest. The site was selected by Australian wine scientist Tony Jordan, who LVMH contracted to find the ideal spot for a quality red wine. China’s other major wine-producing regions are mainly spread across the country’s north, including the promising Ningxia region.
The reputation of Chinese wine on the international market is lukewarm at best. But many are noticing Chinese investment in historic wine properties, along with domestic interest and consumption, as signs that the industry is ripe to make improvements. Several French wine producers are now establishing high-end wine projects all over China.
The first vintage (2013) of Ao Yun produced 24,000 bottles, a blend of 90% cabernet sauvignon and 10% cabernet franc. (Cabernet sauvignon is the most widely planted grape in China, and most of the country’s output is red wine—an obviously important color in Chinese culture.) Bottles are going for around $250.
So how does Ao Yun taste?
Elin McCoy at Bloomberg calls it: “ripely fruity, dark, and powerful, with a spicy tang, a hint of licorice, and a silky smooth texture. It’s nearly 15 percent alcohol and tastes unique, something like a combo of a Spanish Ribera del Duero and a Napa cult cab.”
Preeminent wine journalist Janis Robinson proclaims: “The wine has the deep colour, savour, freshness and vitality of wines obviously grown at high altitude and reminded me a little of Ribera del Duero (minus the obvious oak that plagues too many of them). It has a certain spiciness and the aroma of the Cabernet Franc that apparently makes up 15% or so of the blend with the inevitable Cabernet Sauvignon makes its presence felt on the persistent finish, but the nose is decidedly sumptuous. The alcohol level is ‘only’ 13.8% and the tannins are admirably soft.”