Chateau Ausone, named after an ancient Roman poet, Ausonius, dates back to at least 1592. Over the centuries it has been sold to and passed down through three families, but today it is owned by Alain Vauthier and his sister, Catherine. Alain's daughter, Pauline, has assisted in winemaking since 2005 and the famed Michel Rolland has consulted since 1995.
The family history from the past few decades is only interesting because it affects how the winemaking decisions were made and the impact on the wine quality. From 1974 to 1995 both the Dubois-Challons and the Vauthiers sides of the family claimed the right to run the property, which made for an uneasy partnership. Beginning in 1976, winemaking was handled by Alain Vauthier and Pascal Delbeck, installed by the Dubois-Challons, who worked well together early on but then began to disagree. These disagreements escalated to such a level that even basic decisions such as when to begin harvesting the grapes were taken to court. The court decisions usually favored Vauthier but the impasse meant that no significant investments into the estate were made and quality took a dip in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was broken in 1995 when Madame Dubois-Challon had begun investigating the possibility of selling Ausone to an "outsider" of the family. The Vauthiers argued that they had first right of refusal on any sale, took Mme. Dubois-Challon to court and won, though she won the right to live at the château (which she did until her death in 2003).
The vineyard site for Chateau Ausone is world-renowned for being exceptional - it has both limestone and calcareous clay soil and is natural sheltered from extreme temperatures, as exemplified by the fact that it was one of the only St. Emilions to avoid the devastation of the 1956 great frost. The 18-acres of vineyard, planted to 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot, is directly adjacent to the Chateau, as pictured above. With an average of 50-year-old vines, the yield is low and the grape quality, for concentration and aging, is high.
At the end of the 16th century the hill adjacent to Ausone was carved out to supply stones to rebuild Saint-Emilion town walls. The resulting cavity provided perfect wine storage that is still keeping Ausone wines at a perfectly steady temperature even today. Vinification takes place in temperature-controlled oak vats, then the wine is aged in barrel for roughly 20-22 months. About 1500 cases of Ausone wine are produced each year.
Ausone has always been highly regarded in Saint-Emilion, hence it is the only Premier Grand Cru Classe, along with Cheval Blanc, in Saint-Emilion to receive such an honor in the classification of 1959. And since Alain Vauthier took full control in 1995, Ausone has also been consistently rated very highly by worldwide critics. Robert Parker has scored 93 points or higher for the vintages between 1998 and 2015, including perfect 100-point scores for the 2003 and 2005 vintages. Renowned British critic Jancis Robinson has rated the 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2009 vintages 18 points or higher out of 20. And Neal Martin similarly rates seven of the vintages between 2000 and 2011 as 'Extraordinary' and states that in one tasting, Ausone was "in a different league to everything else I tasted (including Pétrus and Le Pin)."
We have several Ausone wines in stock, with some of the highlights shown below. The second wine for Ausone, called Chappelle d'Ausone, is nearly as good and more affordable. Vauthier also owns and operates Châteaux Moulin-St-Georges and de Fonbel.