When I was a young girl I was obsessed with Audrey Hepburn. I had the laser disc of Funny Face and would watch it over and over again. I loved how this simple, bookish girl, full of substance, transformed into this glamorous red swan floating down the steps of the Louvre with the “Winged Victory” in the background. I loved how frivolous the movie was with its fashion-centric dance scenes, very predictable love story and that crazy teensy car chase — it made for very indulgent cinema but never seemed tacky because it was Audrey Hepburn. I was hooked.
I watched Roman Holiday, Charade, My Fair Lady, Paris When It Sizzles, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and every other touching romantic comedy out there. I needed to watch them all so I rented, borrowed and bought laser discs and VHS tapes just so I could get my fill.
Then I stumbled upon Wait Until Dark. I was at first distraught. What happened to her gaiety? Her smile and subtle charisma? Who was this unsure and terrified woman? Why was it all so tense? Where were the floating swaths of pink fabric and gorgeous Givenchy dresses? Where were the tender moments? As I watched I became even more fascinated. Here was a true actress, a unique talent who was more than just a pretty face; she had comedic timing and the acting chops to play a blind woman in a thriller. Audrey Hepburn was the ultimate star.
Even in her later years, while living her quiet life in Switzerland, she never stayed idle, dedicating much of her time to her family and humanitarian work with UNICEF. She was always a class act. I had always fantasized about meeting her but never did I think it would be possible, until I encountered her spirit in a glass of Chateau Ausone 2005.
Not too long ago I had the privilege of being invited to a special dinner hosted by Romy Sia of Wine Story. I will always be grateful to him for inviting me and introducing me to this incredible world of true fine wine. It seemed so apt as my first “real” wine moment was during a Chateau Angelus dinner hosted by him as well.
It seems like Wine Story is a place for many firsts, as it was also the very first time the legendary Chateau Ausone was hosting tasting dinners on their Asian tour, and it was the very first time in the Philippines.
For those of you who don’t know (like myself before the dinner; I wasn’t familiar at all with the property and the wine), the Ausone brand has a core following among serious Bordeaux collectors. Château Ausone is one of only four wines — alongside Chateau Angelus, Cheval Blanc and Pavie — to be ranked Premier Grand Cru Classe (A) in the Saint-Emilion classification for wine.
The vineyard has been in existence as early as 1592. Two families, the Chatonnets and the Cantenants, founded the estate. Today, it belongs to Alain Vauthier and his family. Vauthier introduced techniques to better exploit the terroir of Ausone, lowering yields and introducing a second wine to make a superior grand vin.
That evening Pauline Vauthier, Alain’s daughter and currently the technical director of all properties, joined us. She started working in the company at the young age of 20. When asked about working with her father, she casually replied, “Oh, he will always be there! He lives on the property and his office is just 20 meters away. He is part of this generation that works, works and works. He doesn’t do vacations.”
His hard work has been well rewarded because, since Alain Vauthier took full control, Ausone has been consistently rated very highly by critics from vintage to vintage. Robert Parker has scored eight of the 12 vintages between 2000 and 2011 as “Extraordinary,” including perfect 100-point scores for the 2003 and 2005 vintages.
At that time Vauthier explained to me that during the time she started some 12 years ago, “Although there were more and more women as cellar masters, there weren’t too many women managing the vineyards and the wine growing.”
Traditionally the Bordeaux wine industry was a man’s world and things were changing. “Just like in every industry, the place of women is growing. They do say, however, that women are more sensitive in the tastings!”
It wasn’t all that evident for a young girl to start her career in the industry, but it was her character and credibility that helped her. “I have a strong personality. You need it; if not, you can easily get squashed. But I also had a technical degree in Oenology and Viticulture. I learned everything and know all the ropes, from using a tractor to managing the cellar and right down to the blending. I worked and tilled the land. This earned me a certain respect from all the men working in the industry at all levels.”
All the wines Pauline presented that evening were wonderful. We were also fortunate to taste another one of their properties, which I wish were represented here in the Philippines: Château Moulin St. Georges. The Château Moulin St. Georges 2006, a luscious wine that is a junior version of Château Ausone, and the Château de Fonbel 2008, were paired with starters by chef Margarita Fores of Batangas duck estofado “Alle Mangue.”
Chapelle d’ Ausone, the second label of Château Ausone, is an aromatic wine that tastes fresh and alive, with Merlot-based plummy fruit. The 2009 and 2011 vintages paired nicely with the pork entrée consisting of Iberico pork segreto pata tim and banana blossoms. The stellar wines highlighted during the dinner event included the Ausone 2003, an admirable match to the beef entrée consisting of roast Blackmore short rib, palm heart and crepes ragu.
As always there is one incredible standout: Chateau Ausone 2005. An iconic and very personal wine for Pauline, as this was the true affirmation of her skill in the industry. Rewarded with no less than 100 points by Robert Parker, the 2005 vintage marks her start with the vineyard. Her very first “baby.” How fitting that this is her first wine; most fine red Bordeaux for me are very masculine, but the 2005 is incredibly feminine — a beautiful wine that has lots of structure, balance and complexity without being too serious or snobby. It was elegant yet friendly, serious but approachable, at times delicate with some floral qualities, then at times vibrant with black fruit.
It was the Audrey Hepburn of wine, blossoming at the nose like she flew down that flight of stairs, the red chiffon billowing in the wind and with time losing all her inhibitions and dancing like a beatnik in a smoky Parisian café, dancing to her own rhythm, embracing space and time like the universe belonged solely to her.
I may not have had the chance to meet Audrey Hepburn herself, but this was one incredible opportunity to really imbibe her spirit. It was a wine that had chops and class. You knew till the very end it would age as gracefully as she did.
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Discover legendary wines like Chateau Ausone and the second label Chapelle d’ Ausone at Wine Story, located at G/F, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City; G/F, Serendra, Bonifacio High Street, Taguig City; and G/F, One Rockwell West, Makati City. For a company overview, visit Wine Story’s website at www.winestory.com.ph.