Though it has never been absolutely proven, Chateau Asone is rumoured to be the 4th century home of a Roman villa belonging to the classical poet Ausonius - and indeed, part of the estate does contain archaeological remains of a Roman villa. Needless to say, it’s a local estate of great pedigree and despite its incredibly lengthy history, it has only changed familial hands three times, culminating in the 17th century with the Dubois-Challon-Vauthier family, in whose descendents hands it remains today.
Widely regarded among Bordeaux winemakers to be home to some of the best terroir in the region and that terroir, along with the skilled hand of Alain Vauthier, have made it one of the best producers of Bordeaux wine in the world. Renowned for its unique flavour and rich, full-bodied minerality, the 2016 has been lauded for its “regal” yet “stunning and ethereal” character, and widely regarded as one of THE wines of this year’s vintage.
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!
100 points, Wine Advocate (April 2006)
Amazing! The limestone soils of Ausone appear to have been the perfect foil for resisting the extreme heat and drought of June, July and August, 2003. This black/purple-colored effort boasts a glorious nose of violets, truffles, lead pencil shavings, blueberry and blackberry liqueur. Full-bodied with staggering concentration, a voluptuous texture, low acidity and well-integrated, melted tannins, this deep, multidimensional, profound Bordeaux is beginning to drink exceptionally well. It should continue to do so for another two decades or more.
100 points, Wine Advocate (August 2014)
Forget all those garage wines, forget the upstarts of Saint-Emilion. When you want real class, you have to turn to Ausone. What a wine - magnificently dense and opaque, hugely rich and sensual. Yet it doesn't seem in the least decadent - for deep inside the wine is a huge backbone of ripe tannins.
98 points, Wine Enthusiast (June 2003)
St.-Émilion is the star of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, north of the Dordogne River. The rich red wines produced in St.-Émilion, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are less tannic and generally more fruit-driven in flavour than the Cabernet-based wines of Left Bank. Merlot thrives on the plateaus high above the Dordogne, where the soil is filled with sand and clay, a perfect medium for creating opulent, fruit-forward wines. With a typically savoury character, St.-Émilion wines are sometimes called the “Burgundies of Bordeaux.” These refined reds, with loads of finesse, are elegant companions to beef, chicken, pork and duck.
The wines of St.-Émilion were not included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux, which ranked wines of the Left Bank. In 1955, St.-Émilion published its own classification, based on soil analysis, wine quality and reputation of the properties. Unlike the 1855 classification, St.-Emilion’s system requires properties to continuously prove themselves. The list is revised regularly, most recently in 2012. There are two tiers within the classification, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé. There are currently just 18 Premier Grand Cru properties and 64 Grand Cru Classé properties.
The St.-Émilion appellation is home to hundreds of individual producers, enhancing the variety of wines made there. Many of the properties remain small, family-run enterprises, unlike the large châteaux of the Left Bank. The area is also the base of France’s controversial micro-châteaux or garagiste wine movement; these innovative winemakers operate outside the traditional classification system, making very high quality (and very expensive) highly extracted wines.