Wine News 

Ausone's Hillside Microclimate Kept 2017 Vintage Safe From Saint Emilion Frost

April 15, 2018

Chateau Ausone's historic hillside location on the slopes overlooking the medieval town of Saint Emilion kept its 2017 vintage safe from the frost that ravaged other parts of the appellation in late April last year. 

 ``It's a microclimate, like the Pomerol plateau, which is less prone to frost than Lalande,'' Alain Vauthier, who co-manages his family-owned vineyard with daughter Pauline, said during a tasting at the estate on April 11. The family has owned the vineyard property since 1690.

Asked if last year's frost, the worst in the area since 1991, could have an effect on this year's crop, he said that was unlikely. ``Contrary to what some people say about vines suffering the year after a frost, they produce more grapes. In 1992 there were grapes everywhere.'' 

The 2017 Chateau Ausone had a classical blend of 55 percent Cabernet Franc and 45 percent Merlot, with 23,000 bottles made. The wine comes from a planted vineyard area of 7.25 hectares (18 acres) on an asteria limestone plateau and calcareous clay slopes, with a density of between 6,500 and 12,600 vines per hectare. 

The average age of the vines at Ausone is 52 years, with some close its private chapel, which inspired the name of second wine Chapelle d'Ausone, being more than 110 years old. The yield in 2017 was 35 hectoliters per hectare. 

Harvesting for the main wine was between Sept. 23 and 25 for merlot and on Sept. 28 and 29 for the cabernet franc, with fermentation in wooden vats to be followed by 20 months of ageing in 100 percent new French oak barrels, according to technical data supplied by the estate. 

For Chapelle d'Ausone, the 2017 blend was 50 percent Merlot, 40 percent Cabernet Franc and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, with later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested on Oct. 2. That has the same fermentation and ageing process as the main wine, and the estate produced 5,500 bottles of its second wine for 2017. 

Asked about the estate's policy on en primeur futures sales, the system by which wine is sold in barrel two years or more before it's ready for physical delivery, Pauline Vauthier said ``we sell 60 percent of all our wines en primeur. 40 percent we hold back.''

Ausone deals through 70 brokers in Bordeaux, who sell the wine on to merchants and other customers around the world. En primeur ``is a system which works well,'' she said. The family also owns Chateau Moulin Saint-Georges on a slope adjacent to Ausone, and Chateau La Clotte, which is nearby, both of which produce more Merlot-driven wines.


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