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Wine Pioneers

The wine estates in our portfolio all have one key element in common: their founders were pioneers in their field; true trailblazers, trusting their instincts to invest in areas and techniques that have since become world famous. Taking their inspiration or expertise from Europe into the furthest reaches of the New World and applying everything they’ve learned along the way, here’s why these wineries deserve their place on the global wine stage...

Ao Yun: exploring a mythical terroir in China

Nestled above the clouds near China’s mythical city of Shangri-La, the shimmering northern reaches of Yunnan province in the foothills of the Himalayas have become home to a brand new kind of terroir. The birth of Ao Yun is an inspiring and extraordinary story; one that challenges the status quo of the entire, global winemaking scene. It was conceived with a single, clearly defined goal to make a cabernet sauvignon from China that could compete with – or even exceed – the quality of the world’s most iconic red wines.

The location had to be perfect and it took four years to find it; a terroir with gravelly soil like that of Bordeaux and a climate with similar maximum temperatures. Thanks to its spectacular elevation however, Ao Yun is also blessed with cooler, drier nights and a higher UV index, which concentrates grape flavours and enhances ageing potential. The inaugural vintage of Ao Yun was 2013 and it has impressed wine connoisseur and critics around the world. With Ao Yun, the boundaries of fine wine production have been truly pushed and changed forever.

Cape Mentelle: an instinct for technique and terroir

The journey of Cape Mentelle to the forefront of the world winemaking stage was not an easy one. Located in Margaret River, in the rugged far south-western corner of Australia, David Hohnen and his brothers planted their first vines in 1969, determined that these ancient soils in one of the most isolated wine regions in the world, showed enough potential to create world class wines. The maritime influences reminded them of the Bordeaux region and this inspired them to produce a cabernet sauvignon that has since become one of Australia’s most iconic wines. The Cape Mentelle style became synonymous with the Margaret River wine region itself after winning dozens of awards, including consecutive wins of the Jimmy Watson trophy: Australia’s most prestigious wine award.

As well as being among the first to plant in the Margaret River, Cape Mentelle was the first winery in Australia to use optical sorting of berries to select only the highest quality bunches. Their dedication to the sustainability of the land around them also lead them to be the very first winery in Western Australia to be accredited under the Winemakers Federation of Australia’s Entwine program; two facts about which they are incredibly proud and other winemakers have since followed in their footsteps.

Cloudy Bay: a Marlborough Pioneer

Founder of Cloudy Bay, David Hohnen, looked to New Zealand with his pioneering spirit after establishing the Cape Mentelle winery in Australia. When he saw the potential of the land in Marlborough with its gentle rolling hills just kissing the ocean and its dramatic, cloudy landscape, he was convinced enough to take an enormous bank loan to secure key vineyard sites around the region. In 1985, the now iconic Cloudy Bay was born; one of the first five wineries to be established in Marlborough.

The estate’s Sauvignon Blanc, and its inimitable aromatics, became a new style for this varietal and a benchmark for New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc, the country’s most-loved, signature wine. Thanks to Cloudy Bay, the wines of Marlborough, New Zealand enjoy their own kind of celebrity status, due to their iconic style, inherent quality and the visionary genius of Cloudy Bay’s founder, David Hohnen.

Chandon: World class bubbles, outside of Champagne

Since 1959, Moët & Chandon have been sharing their sparkling wine expertise with the New World, establishing wineries in terroirs across three continents that have been deemed ideal for sparkling wine. Using the key, noble grapes chardonnay and pinot noir that are famous in the Champagne region, they have also incorporated meunier into some and local varieties into others.

Since the founding of their first ‘daughter’ winery in Mendoza, Argentina in 1959, new ventures followed in 1973 with two sites: one in the Brazilian foothills of the Serra Gaúcha mountains and another in California’s Napa Valley, where such interest from a leading French wine player helped put the region firmly on the on the map. Not long afterwards, the Green Point winery was founded in the cool hills of Australia’s Yarra Valley.

The latest chapters in the Chandon history have recently been written in China and India. In 2013, Domaine Chandon China was established in the country’s largest winegrowing area, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and in the following year, Domaine Chandon India was born, within the up and coming Dindori Nashik region.

What all these wineries offer our pleasure-seeking global palates is the fascinating combination of old world techniques, such as Champagne’s ‘traditional method’ of making sparkling wine, with grapes and new terroirs as diverse as you can get. May they forever continue to push boundaries and provide us with endlessly new stories to taste.