XiaoLing, Yunnan, China, 2015
Drinking Window: 2019 - 2023
‘Cloudy peak of the mountains’ may not sound like perfect terroir to produce great wine, but we shouldn't take the name of this wine (since that is what XiaoLing means) too literally. What it’s trying to communicate is the high altitude of the vineyards: a series of small plots sited on terraces between 2,000 and 2,400m up in Yunnan’s Himalayan foothills, in bright, sunny conditions at a very low latitude (28˚N). The soils are mixed, but all of them possess a greater or lesser admixture of limestone. There are almost 10ha of vineyards altogether, but this second release comes from just 2 ha scattered over 22 parcels. The wine is blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Merlot, entirely fermented in earthenware jars with daily pigeage, and aged mostly in older oak. It's fresh above all, with a clean yet softly-fruited, agreeably understated aroma. In the mouth it's fresh and dancing in style with a discreet tannic presence and a brisk finish. It doesn’t have the density as yet to compete with serious Bordeaux, but there's nothing obvious or crass about it – often the failing of ambitious Chinese reds. Look out for subsequent vintages; this was the best Chinese red wine among the few I have tasted this year.