Château Ausone 2021
• Domaine: Château Ausone
• Appellation: Saint-Emilion
• Classification: Premier Grand Cru Classé A
• Origin: Right Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Château Ausone is not a wine casually served. Its "minuscule production", once observed Robert Parker Jr., "makes it nearly impossible to find commercially." Even the professionals in the wine trade don't get to taste it often. Bordeaux-domiciled independent wine critic Jane Anson (formerly columnist for Decanter magazine) commented how most critics are limited to tasting it at en primeur barrel sampling, and won't see it again for 10 or 20 years, if ever.
The property derives its name, Château Ausone, from the legendary Roman poet Ausonius who is said to have lived in a villa on its steeply sloped limestone hills. Ausonius referenced Bordeaux in one of his many poems, writing: “Bordeaux is my homeland, with its gentle breeze, its merciful sky, the generous gifts of its fertile soil, its long Spring and its warming morning mists. The mighty tidal river, below the vine-bedecked slopes, foams and boils as it surges towards the sea like a wave.” Whether he lived at the actual property remains in question. Regardless, visitors can find Roman ruins in the vineyards and records of Ausonius living in Bordeaux throughout history.
Like any great wine, the story behind Château Ausone is a story of a family who is committed to the land they were blessed with. It is a story of efforts made through many generations. The modern era of Ausone started with the marriage of Edouard Dubois and Mlle Challon in 1891. After Edouard's premature death in 1921, the property was managed by his widow and two children - Jean and Cécile. Jean died in 1974, leaving his half to his widow, Mme Dubois-Challon. The other half belongs to Cécile who married M Vauthier. The two branches of the family were cordial. But there were stories of internal bickering and constant friction due to differences in the philosophy of winemaking. Some say the wine of this esteemed producer from the 1960s and 1970s was mediocre. Maybe it had something to do with the disagreements over methods and practices. Finally, in the mid 1990s, the Vauthier family bought out Mme Dubois-Challon, a new era of Château Ausone was born.
The current head of the Vauthier family, Pauline, started working in the vineyards at the age of 18. Since she took over winemaking in 2005, Ausone has gone from one great vintage to another. Although not officially certified, organic farming is practiced in the vineyard. Due to the limestone soils of Ausone, the wine has incredible minerality, purity of fruit, and concentration. They are rich and full-bodied without being heavy. A bottle of Château Ausone demands time in the cellar – typically 15 to 20 years. Even during an average vintage in Bordeaux, Ausone shines. In truly remarkable vintages, Ausone takes off like a rocket ship. We have only one issue with this great estate: each year's allocation is simply too small to meet the demand from clients. Consider adding your name to our waitlist.
"A blend of 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot, the 2021 Ausone is a strong candidate for the title of wine of the vintage. Wafting from the glass with aromas of wild blueberries and raspberries mingled with rose petals, violets, exotic spices, vine smoke and blood orange, it's full-bodied, seamless and sensual, with a satiny attack that segues into a deep, layered mid-palate of breathtaking precision and intensity without weight. Built around bright acids and ultra-refined tannins and concluding with a resonant, perfumed finish, this profound young Ausone represents the essence of this great limestone terroir. I am not in the habit of drinking six-month-old Bordeaux cask samples, but this is one wine that would have sorely tempted me to make an exception to that rule if my appointment at the estate hadn't been one of the first of the day!" - William Kelley, The Wine Advocate (4/29/22) Rating: 97-100
"Violet edging, jewel red depths. There is austerity on the tannins here, but also great depths through the palate, with controlled but juicy loganberry and raspberry fruits, and waves of saffron, creamy red-fruit puree, crushed rock, cold ash and salt-cracker salinity. Subdued, with hidden power and complexity. A tough year for this stable of wines - or rather proof of their exceptionally high standards, making a half production of Simard, no Haut Simard, tiny amounts of Fonbel and almost certainly no Moulin St Georges. The last year that Ausone will be recorded as a Premier Grand Cru Classé A, before publication of the new ranking in September 2022. Harvest September 30 to October 6, 100% new oak. In conversion to organic farming since 2020, Philippe Baillarguet cellar master. Average vine age 55 years."- Jane Anson, Inside Bordeaux, Rating: 95
"Vibrant red berry notes on the nose, fragranced damson, blueberry, plum, some wild flower and dried flower touches. Smooth and so silky on the palate, round and gently mouth filling with graphite edges that appear almost straight away. You get that nuance of wet stone and chalk but so well balanced with charming, juicy cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the palate. So perfectly smooth and balanced, silky tannins give the powdery finish while the well-balanced acidity gives the energy underneath. It’s incredibly captivating because you get these waves of flavour and a gentle lick of stone that reminds you you're in St-Emilion on pure limestone. Such verticality and an aerial quality to this with flavours that continue to lift the entire way through. Sustained but graceful with a shy sense of power. Brilliant winemaking for the vintage." - Georgina Hindle, Decanter (5/2022), Rating: 95
"The 2021 Ausone was picked on September 30 for the Merlot and October 4–6 for the Cabernet Franc, with a higher percentage of Cabernet Franc because some of the Merlot was deselected into the Chapelle. Matured in 90% new oak, this has a fragrant and floral bouquet, more iris than violet, revealing a hint of seaweed in the background. The palate is well-defined, quite strict and focused, certainly one of the more mineral-driven Ausones that I have encountered at this stage. The limestone terroir is evident on the finish. Again, this is a little leaner and less flamboyant than recent vintages. Having tasted Ausone at this prenatal stage for over 20 years, I don’t find the thrilling "drive” or the pyrotechnics of the 2001, 2010, 2016 or 2019. Yet this Ausone is compelling in its own uncompromising way, and I wouldn't want it any different." - Neal Martin, Vinous (5/2022), Rating: 93-95