Ao Yun (pic: LVMH)
China Wine

China’s top rated wine is …

The 2018 Ao Yun vintage became the pinnacle of Chinese wine as it gained the highest score from international wine critics.

Ao Yun, signifying “flying above the clouds” in Chinese, is the first premium Chinese wine launched by the luxury group LVMH. Resembling its name, its 2018 vintage became the pinnacle of Chinese wine as it gained the highest score from international wine critics.

In a recent report published by American wine critic James Suckling, the latest 2018 vintage Ao Yun was given 98 points, the highest from the critic for any Chinese wine. 

This honor came after Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate awarded the same wine the highest score of 95 in its first edition of “top 10 fine wines in China”, which is also the team’s first 95 score given to a Chinese wine. 

First launched by LVMH in 2016, Ao Yun is a Cabernet dominated Bordeaux blend produced in remote and high-altitude Yunnan province. Ao Yun 2018 is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 7% Syrah and 4% Petit Verdot.

After tasting the 2018 vintage with Ao Yun winemaker Maxence Dulou in Hong Kong, Suckling rated the wine with 98 points and praised it “the greatest offering to come out of the country”. 

According to Suckling, the full-bodied wine remains “fresh and vertical” on the palate, with depth and complexity of the nose that shows blackberry, ink, tar, earth, incense, cloves and black licorice and thyme. 

Ao Yun’s winemaker Maxence Dulou recognised the 2018 vintage as his greatest effort in winemaking, “We had the rain at the right moment to allow the grape to ripen perfectly and finally the fall was cool and it ripened the grape, and it gave the identity of the terroir and the vintage,” he shared with Suckling during the tasting.

Ao Yun’s new single vineyard wine 

Ao Yun 2018 is now the top rated Chinese wine, and the LVMH-owned winery is also releasing four single vineyard cuvees. (pic: JamesSuckling.com)

Suckling and Dulou have also reviewed four other yet-to-be released single vineyard wines of Ao Yun’s new project, where wines from the four village vineyards of Ao Yun are bottled separately, namely Adong, Shuori, Xidang and Sinong.

Around 1,200 to 1,800 bottles are expected to be produced from each cru, but they will not necessarily be bottled every year. For instance, Sinong was not bottled in 2018 as all wines from the vineyard are used in Ao Yun 2018, a blend of the four vineyards.

Among the four, Suckling has rated the Ao Yun Shangri-La Xidang Cru 2018 as the best among the single-vineyard reds. 

Consisting of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with 20% Petit Verdot, the Xidang Cru 2018 is said to have “first-class purity of fruit” with plenty of blackcurrant and dark berry character aside from “ultra-fine tannins” by Suckling.

For whites, he praised the Ao Yun Chardonnay Shangri-La Adong 2018 as “China’s answer to Chablis”, which demonstrated the high-altitude nature of the vineyards with a green apple and mineral character.

Previously, Edward Ragg MW, the Chinese wine reviewer for Wine Advocate, has also rated 2018 Ao Yun Shuori Village Cru a 94 points in the China: Fine Wine 2021 report. It is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot. 

Ao Yun’s winemaker Dulou revealed that the four single vineyard wines will be released in the fall in Bordeaux. Prices will range from 40% to 70% of the price for Ao Yun, which is around US$275 ($2,145) per bottle.

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