In the Yunnan province of China near the Himalayas you’ll find the Ao Yun vineyards, located in a Unesco World Heritage region of three rivers and near the sacred Meili Mountain. This unique landscape, which also sits at an altitude of 7,200 to 8,500 ft, exclusively produces Ao Yun wine – a delectable elixir and the first luxury Chinese wine.
Ao Yun, which means ‘flying above the clouds,’ is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which first launched in 2017 with its 2013 vintage. This year, it released its second bottle, the 2014 vintage just in time to celebrate the Chinese New Year on February 5. The China-grown grape delivers French elegance (in both tradition and expertise) but what sets it apart from anything else you’ve tried is the distinct terroir – high altitude with stronger UV rays, a position deep in a valley between two mountains (thus protecting it from eastern and western monsoons) and minimal rain in the summer. The air in this region is pure and natural – so each time you taste Ao Yun, you’re tasting a bit of the Himalayas. The result? A spicy, earthy and smooth, deep-red wine.
The vineyard’s location is so remote you physically can’t get machines to assist in the harvesting or soiling process that other vineyards rely on – each grape tended to by hand in such a meticulous manner (it’s four times the work in comparison to a Bordeaux vineyard as there are no machines). Despite the labor-intensive process, the lack of machine presence results in less compact soil, allowing the roots to extend that much deeper underground. What’s more, the entire process is eco-friendly with minimal waste, so you’ll feel satisfaction in knowing your wine is ethically made and positively impacts the local community from which it grows (more than 120 families play a crucial role in helping winemaker Maxence DuLou of Moët Hennessy understand the land and environment).
There are 2,500 cases of Ao Yun are produced per year (of that, 300 make it to the US), making it extremely difficult to get your hands on. Those lucky enough to try it will experience its purely indulgent smell and taste. While you may pick up spice with mint and cedar, or a mineral graphite smell, on the palate is is dry with fruit notes and a balance between sweetness and alcohol.
Celebrate the Chinese New Year this year – the Year of the Pig – with Ao Yun. It pairs exceptionally with traditional Chinese New Year dishes. Dumplings (pork dumplings are ideal with Ao Yun) are a must when celebrating, as it means ‘exchange.’ When consumed at midnight, you are exchanging the old year for the new. Steamed fish, such as bigheaded carp, means surplus and wealth in Chinese – a whole fish symbolizes harmony, but the Chinese believe that eating half the fish for dinner and the other half the next day prolong the surplus and promises a prosperous future. Ao Yun can be aged for up to 20 years or more, so if this isn’t the year you’re celebrating with Ao Yun, you can save it for the next Year of the Pig.
Ao Yun, $300. For more information, visit lvmh.com