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敖云 Ao Yun 2016, 2017, 2018

June 14, 2022

Within a short space of less than ten years since its inaugural vintage of 2013, the Chinese winery Ao Yun (敖云), backed by LVMH, has captured the attention of the oenology world’s cognoscenti. Farmed from four small plots of land situated more than 2000 metres high in the Yunnan Himalayas that feature very steep slopes and deep valleys, Ao Yun (literally meaning “above the clouds”) is essentially a cabernet blend crafted with a fastidious attitude towards precise viticulture and geological study. Each plot is subdivided into a multitude of subplots and, even within each subplot, different types of grapes may be grown according to the soil type. Since 2016, however, a small percentage of syrah has been added to the cabernet to enhance further dimension, a practice that was commonplace amongst the bordelais in the early twentieth century. I had the privilege of tasting three consecutive vintages with the estate’s director and winemaker Maxence Dulou across Zoom on 19 May 2022, organised by the good guys from Wine Clique Singapore. It seems Ao Yun has found its footing, appearing to progress from strength to strength with each successive vintage. Whether they justify their lofty premium remains debatable, for options are plenty at this price point.

2016 Ao Yun. Blend of 77% cabernet sauvignon, 20% cabernet franc, 4% syrah and 2% petit verdot aged in 32% new oak, the remainder from 1-year-old barriques. Deep garnet. Effusive in plummy fruit and currants with an urgent sense of freshness, promising a huge depth of glorious ripe fruit that is delivered on the rounded fleshy medium-full palate with fine intensity, underpinned by a dash of spice, licorice and austere ferrous elements. Weighty and well balanced. Very much like Saint- Julien in character.

2017 Ao Yun. Blend of 77% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, 4% syrah, 3% petit verdot and 2% merlot. Very deep purple. This is a restrained beauty, taking its time to reveal aromas of ripe raspberries, wild berries, mulberries, currants and ground pepper with a lovely lift. Rounded with a distinct minerally mid-body, giving way to more fruit and some eventual forest characters with vibrant sleek acidity that imparted exciting intensity and tension. Weighty with even linearity, culminating in a modest finish. Highly refined.

2018 Ao Yun. Blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 19% cabernet franc, 10% merlot, 7% syrah and 4% petit verdot. Deep garnet. Restrained nose of raspberries and currants with a hint of wet gravel, very Bordeaux-like. The lower proportion of cabernet sauvignon has resulted in open warmer shades of red fruits and dark cherries of subdued intensity on the medium-full palate, seamlessly structured with refined sophisticated tannins from its greater proportion of merlot. Very elegantly balanced and confident. Already accessible even at this stage. Highly successful.

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