Ao Yun, and the LMVH foray into the Himalayas
The all-powerful LVMH Group, whose gilded stables include thoroughbreds like Dom Pérignon, Krug and Château d’Yquem, have produced a cuvee from the Himalayan foothills. After prospecting for years, they managed to set up a tiny vineyard on UNESCO World Heritage grounds that does everything by hand.
Wine hoarders, on the backs of commendations from Jancis Robinson ("... Ao Yun's uniqueness is incontestible"), Decanter (who gave it 94 points) and Wine Gang's Jane Parkinson (waffling between "... I'd happily give it a 94, maybe even a 95 or 96"), clamored tooth and nail to snap-up the first 2013 vintage. Overseen by oenologist Maxence Doulou, who moved with his family to the rugged northern Yunnan province to ensure the conglomerate's multi-million investment, the 2014 release promises more complexity due to warmer and dryer year.
Having no precedents, LMVH wine boss Jean-Gillaume Prats reported, "... there is no manual or benchmark because we are the first. We are learning everything as we go along. Really, this is a great adventure." From de-stemming grapes by hand to vinifying must (or young wine) in amphorae, the sheer remoteness of the locale means winemakers had to improvise when electricity or fermentation vats didn't arrive on schedule.
And what mesmerizing mountain terroir. Grown on steep, terraced vineyards around 2,200m - 2,600m, the name Ao Yun itself means to fly above the clouds. A significant lack of rain means no botrytis or mildew, which in turn negates chemicals and sprays. Tasting notes from it's 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc combination, record an intense. deep dark colour with a multi-layered nose of cinnamon, liqourice, mint and cedars, and the minerality of graphite. The palate apparently offers a unique balance between sweetness and alcohol, with a dry, medium to full bodied finish on a myriad of refreshing notes like wild black raspberry and peony. Retailing at RM 988.98 directly from Moet Hennessy Diageo.