|Annual Production (Grand Vin)||2,000 cases|
|Classification||Premiere Grand Crus Classé A|
|Second Wine||Chapelle d'Ausone|
|Interesting Fact||The site of Château Ausone has been planted with vines for hundreds of years and was cultivated by Roman poet Ausonious in the 4th Century.|
Though the legal wrangles of the Vaulthier and Dubois-Challon families may have detracted the focus from the wine produced at Ausone in the late 20th century, it remains a big-hitter in the Bordeaux region among the top eight brands in the region as named by Liv-ex.
A few years of interfamilial disputes are a blip in the broader picture of a rich history of viticulture on this site which dates back to Roman Europe. Indeed, Château Ausone has been at the top of the tree ever since the St Émilion Classification in 1955 which named it a Premier Grand Cru Classe- a ranking which has remained unchanged for over half a century.
The perfectionism of Alain Vaulthier and his understanding of the chateau’s unique terroir- clay and limestone on sand on steep, south-facing slopes have been a godsend to its fortunes.
The quality of wine from Chateau Ausone in recent years is doubted by no one. In his provisional scores for the 2011 Bordeaux vintages, Ausone’s was the sole wine awarded 100 point potential by Robert Parker, with a range from 96-100 points- placing it a good way ahead of Lafite. The 2009 is a particularly valuable vintage, highly in demand, with the small release size characteristic of Ausone driving up prices.
Fewer than 1200 cases are currently in existence and the vintage is retailing at around twice as much as 2006-8 vintages. The wines themselves are of a powerful character, generally requiring cellaring for 10 years and improving for up to 20 years after harvest date. An alternative opportunity for investment is the 2005, a singular, unique wine of which Robert Parker has said “a masterpiece of concentration and balance, it will no doubt be drinking well a century from now”.
Named for Ausonius, the ancient poet and statesman on whose villa the foundations are said to have been built, Château Ausone has a history of family feuding which has sometimes detracted from the success of its wine. In the 1800s, it began to climb the rankings of the St Émilion classification, gradually outclassing its rivals in the region under the stewardship of the Canterat family.
The château ought to have passed onto Cécile Dubois-Challon in 1974 after the death of her older brother who would have been heir, but it instead passed to his widow- the childless Heylette. She appointed Pascal Delbeck winemaker and the quality of wine fell into decline.
Officially Heylette Dubois-Challon and the Vaulthier family - which the ‘rightful’ heir Cécile had married into - owned the Ausone estate jointly, alongside Chateau Bel Air. But there was much acrimony and grief between the two parties and agreements concerning the running of the estate were impossible to reach, with the spat not to be settled until a series of high-profile court cases in the 1990s.
With money being funnelled towards lawyers rather than being invested in the vinyards, quality continued to suffer. Heylette tired of Ausone and after one final series of court battles the château fell into the hands of Alain Vaulthier- grandson of Cécile. Finally, with full control over the estate, Alain has pushed the quality of Ausone back up year by year by exploiting the fabulous potential of small-but-perfectly-formed estate.
Chateau Ausone Pricing
Highest rated vintages for Chateau Ausone
A tiny production of just over 1,300 cases will make the 2005 Ausone impossible to find, but proprietor Alain Vauthier continues to exhibit the Midas touch with his perfectionist efforts at this estate. This brilliant, blue/black-hued offering reveals an extraordinarily youthful, but promising nose of incense, blueberries, blackberries, currants, licorice, and crushed rocks. This intense 2005 boasts powerful, super-layered, multidimensional flavors with tremendous extraction, yet they come across as incredibly sublime, even delicate for such a stunningly concentrated, full-bodied effort. A masterpiece of concentration and balance, it will no doubt be drinking well a century from now. Anticipated maturity: 2030-2080+.
The 2003 Ausone is off the charts in terms of richness. While I gave a 3-digit score to the 2000, I think this profoundly concentrated wine may be even more sublime and exotic. Its inky/blue/purple color is followed by an extraordinary perfume of flowers, crushed rocks, sweet raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and God knows what else. The impression is one of extraordinary richness and purity, and a multilayered texture yet a surreal lightness as well as laser-like precision. This exquisite offering must be tasted to be believed. Incredibly young, it will undoubtedly close down over the next few years, re-emerging after 15-20 years. It should last for 70-100 years. It is a wine for anthology! No one in Bordeaux has made greater progress in taming the extraordinary potential of this noble terroir than Alain Vauthier, an obsessed perfectionist if there ever was one. He has instituted a Draconian selection at this tiny estate, both in the vineyard and the cellar, and the second wine, Chapelle d’Ausone, has also become one of the region’s finest wines. Prospective purchasers should be aware that Ausone requires 10-20 years of cellaring before it approaches maturity.
Is the 1999 Ausone the wine of the vintage? Dense purple color, a compelling bouquet of licorice, minerals, black and blueberry liqueur, extraordinary delineation, high tannin, superb extract, and phenomenal richness all are the stuff of a legend. This wine seems impossible to have emerged from a vintage like 1999. Proprietor Alain Vauthier produced only 20,000 bottles because he eliminated one-fourth of the tiny crop. The result is out-and-out fabulous, but the wine needs 12-15 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2050.
A masterpiece in the making, proprietor Alain Vauthier's 2009 Ausone boasts a dense purple color along with notes of powdered chalk, crushed rocks and wild blue, red and black fruits. Extravagantly rich with great minerality, precision and freshness as well as a voluptuous texture (unusual for a baby Ausone), this is an extraordinary wine. Sadly, there are fewer than 1,200 cases ... for the world. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2060+
Two bottles were badly corked, which is certainly a scary situation for a wine where only 1,000 or so cases were produced. However, a third bottle was magical and just short of perfection. Its saturated purple color was followed by a surprisingly more evolved and open wine than I had written in my tasting note in 2003, where I predicted maturity between 2020 and 2075. This wine displays wonderful, sweet tannin and a big, sweet kiss of truffle, crushed rock, blueberry, blackberry, and licorice. Extremely rich, full-bodied, with astonishing power, precision, and delicacy, this is a sumptuous wine that should age well for 50-60 years, but in the case of the one bottle out of three that was not corked, it seemed far more evolved and forward than I suggested in my write-up in 2003.
One of the handful of candidates for wine of the vintage is the 2006 Ausone. In fact, while tasting it, I was thinking, is there any estate in Bordeaux that, since 1998, has made as many legendary wines as proprietor Alain Vauthier has at his beloved Ausone? Boasting an inky/blue/purple color as well as an extraordinary, precise bouquet of minerals, flowers, blueberry liqueur, and black currants, this wine possesses fabulous fruit and great intensity, but what makes it so special is its precision, focus, and almost ethereal lightness despite substantial flavor intensity and depth. It is a ballerina with density and power. The abundant noticeable tannin is sweet and, not surprisingly, very finely grained. It should be cellared for a decade, and consumed over the following half century.
The 2010 Ausone struck me as another brilliant, potentially perfect wine, which should come as no shock to people who have been following Vauthier's work over the last decade or more. Backward and intense, this wine offers up notes of crushed chalk/rock mineralilty interwoven with blueberry, black raspberry and cassis as well as some graphite and vanillin. It is incredibly rich but at the same time precise, fresh and vivacious. This is a super wine, but it will require enormous patience from its potential suitors. Forget it for a decade and drink it over the following 50+ years. One of the other perfectionist, compulsive producers in St.-Emilion is Alain Vauthier, who is now capably assisted by his daughter.
Possibly the “wine of the vintage,” the 2008 boasts an inky/blue/purple color as well as a glorious perfume of spring flowers, blueberry and blackberry liqueur, camphor, truffles and crushed rocks. With great fruit on the attack and mid-palate, a medium to full-bodied, multidimensional mouthfeel and a skyscraper-like finish, this prodigious effort over-delivers, even for this phenomenal terroir. Give it 5-8 years of cellaring and drink it over the following 40-50 years.
The 2001 Ausone has put on even more weight than I anticipated. The 'wine of the vintage,' this inky/purple-colored 2001 boasts a provocative, floral perfume of crushed stones, raspberries, blackberries, creme de cassis, licorice, and smoke. What makes it so sensational are the layers of flavor and nuances that unfold as the wine sits in the glass as well as on the palate. This is an extraordinarily intense effort, but remarkably elegant and well-balanced. It ideally needs another decade of cellaring; it should last for 4-5 decades! Alain Vauthier is a perfectionist, which is evidenced by what he has produced over the last half dozen vintages at Ausone. Kudos to readers lucky enough to find a bottle or two ... and live long enough to enjoy them in their prime. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2050+
The 2012 Ausone is another prodigious effort that should turn out to be one of the longest-lived wines of the vintage. It boasts a dense purple color along with abundant notes of mulberries, black currants, blueberries and a hint of raspberries interwoven with spring flower and crushed chalk-like characteristics presented in a full-bodied yet ethereal, stylish, racy, noble manner. This is a high class, aristocratic, nearly perfect wine to cellar for a decade and then watch it unfold over the following 40-50 years.