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#441

AO YUN 2013 FROM SHANGRI-LA

13 Jan 2017 By

This premium wine from Shangri-La, China, is unique and the first of its kind. Will Ao Yun wines soar in the clouds or be grounded in reality?

The climate, more than anything else, decides what wines you end up drinking year by year. The weather decides if you’re gonna get some quality grapes this year, or mere quaffing wine. So for this new Ao Yun winery high up the mountains of Shangri-La, China, the producers found that the clime was similar to Bordeaux (same maximum temp, lower night temp). 

And though that’s a very good start, a whole pest of logistics issues would soon need to be overcomed. Here’s what you need to know about the road that led to their first offering – Ao Yun 2013.

But first watch this video:

The climate was similar to Bordeaux, but the soil was way more acidic and because there was no botrytis, the grapes could be left out for 160 days.

And you only get six hours of sunshine a day. The UV light is a problem if you’re planning a walkabout.

It took the company three years of exploring around China to finally end up here, more than 6,000 metres above sea level – touching distance of the clouds. The vineyards are situated in North Yunnan, at the edge of the Himalayas, and just below the Meili Mountains – 30km from the Myanmar border. It is the most southern vineyards in the northern hemisphere, and the highest altitude for red grapes next to Lebanon.

ao-yun-wine

There are 320 parcels spread of four villages. At this altitude, you get remarkable photosynthesis, concentration, think skins, small berries and fresh wines.

Logistics is the opposite of their heavenly location: The terrain meant excessive travel, usually five hours from the HQ to the vineyards. Language barriers meant there were four levels before anything could be communicated: From Moet Hennessey to their Chinese partner to the village chief to the farmer. Which meant that when you wanted to handpick the grapes on a Monday, it gets done on a Wednesday.

Still, with the Moet Hennessey ‘war machine’ behind the brand, the winery had resources to be innovative. The mission is to a produce a great and unique wine like no other, and though most of it is already out in the global market, 15% was sold domestically as well. 

ao-yun-wine-ean-Guillaume Prats

“This is the most expensive wine to produce in Moet Hennessey’s portfolio,” says Jean-Guillaume Prats (above). “We’re appealing to wine collectors and drinkers, for people who might drink this once a week or a month.”

Ao Yun means “flying above the clouds”, and for now, only a realistic 24,000 bottles of Ao Yun 2013 was produced. The 2014 will have 45,000 bottles. As revealed by Jean-Guillaume Prats, President and CEO of Estates & Wines at Moët Hennessy, “the 2014 vintage has more precision, more mineral perfumes, than the 2013 and is less violent.” The company is still trying to define the wines of the vineyard.

Ao Yun 2013 Vintage

The Ao Yun 2013 is a Cabernet Sauvignon, why? Again, climate. But also because Jesuits had planted similar grapes here around 1850(!), and they certainly knew their wines (the practice was discontinued around WWI). This has an intense, fruity nose (six months in oak), with spices, berries, bark and fine tannins in the blend, it is rich and has an exceptionally long finish. 
 
It is all handmade, from the picking of the grapes to the bottling – about as artisanal as you can get. Yes, though sample are sent to their French labs for testing, this wine is truly of its terroir, and quite outside of this world. Be glad that it is now part of our world.
 Ao Yun 2013 vintage is now available in Singapore. Interested buyers can contact Moët Hennessy Diageo Singapore Private Client Manager Ms. Clementine Wee at clementine.wee@mhdsg.com or +65 6838 7740. Price is upon application.
 

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