Château Ausone is beautifully sited on the slopes of Saint-Emilion’s hill, just under the medieval town wall – one of Bordeaux‘s greatest vineyard sites. Acknowledged by many as one of France’s finest and rarest wines (only around 2,000 cases are produced a year), Ausone is becoming increasingly difficult (and expensive) to get hold of.
For the historians amongst you, Ausone is named after the Roman poet Ausonius who reportedly lived in the area. Latterly, for much of the last three decades of the 20th century, Ausone was the subject of an ongoing family dispute over ownership. During this time it suffered a dip in form, but since, under Alain Vaulthier, Ausone’s reputation has soared to the top of the Saint-Emilion ladder.
Ausone is now one of the ‘Bordeaux Big Eight’, which comprises the five first growths of the left bank (Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux and Haut Brion) plus Cheval Blanc and Petrus on the right bank. As a group, these are considered amongst the most sought-after wines in the world, especially given their potential as investment grade wines.
Saying that, I consider the 1999 to be more of a ‘wine drinker’s vintage’ and a great success for the year. Announced as one of the wines of the vintage by Robert Parker, this is only just entering its drinking window. It exhibits aromas of liquorice, blackberry, blueberry, minerality, and tobacco. The minerality continues on to the palate, supporting a full-bodied and well-integrated weight of dark fruit with hints of bitter chocolate. Not as flamboyant as one might expect, it may not be one of the greatest wines from this estate, but its pedigree is obvious, and judged impartially, it is impossible to be disappointed. Although billed as an early-drinking wine I will certainly wait a number of years before opening my next bottle, but I anticipate a treat when the time comes!