It takes a village to make a wine

The Wines


“Due to its exceptional geographical location, the unique wine-growing site and its history, Domaine d’Aussières is a place of wild, natural beauty that emanates tremendous power”. These words of Baron Eric explain why he fell in love with Aussières and what led Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to restore and revitalize one of the oldest and most beautiful wine-making properties in the Narbonne region.

Aussières has made wine since the Roman era, a period when the great properties of the “Roman Province of Narbonne” were recorded in the land registry and became the main wine suppliers to Rome. In the year 92, the Edict of the Emperor Domitius put a halt to this by requiring the massive uprooting of vineyards in order to protect Roman production. The prosperity of the Languedoc’s wine-growing activity disappeared with the collapse of the Roman Empire and the ensuing battles over the territory between the Visigoths, Franks and Arabs.

In the Middle Ages, the Church saved the vineyard and for nearly eight hundred years, Aussières belonged to various abbeys. In 1065, it belonged to Mont Laures Abbey, which was bought by Fontfroide Abbey in 1211. The presence of the vines was already stipulated in the purchasing act of 1065. Up until the French Revolution, Aussières was part of Fontfroide, in the role of a Cistercian “granary”, a farm supplying the Abbey.

In 1790, when all the Church’s holdings were confiscated, Aussières was bought at auction by Count Daru, Minister and Administrator of the Private Estates of Napoleon Bonaparte. Wine making was re-established with the planting of nearly 80 hectares of vines. At the end of the 19th century, the vineyard at Aussières was enlarged to meet the needs of the urban populations of Northern Europe and to compensate for the drop in production from other vineyards in France – Bordeaux in particular – affected by the phylloxera crisis. The Languedoc itself suffered from phylloxera around 1880, but the epidemic was quickly controlled and the vineyard continued to grow. In the 1920s and 1930s, Aussières’ vineyard covered 270 ha, and employed 120 people who lived on the estate, which had then grown into a real wine-making village, with its own craftsmen and its own school.

From the 1950s, Aussières was swept up in the decline of the Languedoc as a credible wine producing region, and this led to the abandonment of the vineyard and the departure of wine-growers. Fortunately, today, the Languedoc area has turned a new page and is gradually moving toward the production of high quality wines: Aussières is an excellent example.

Acquired in 1999 by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), the 550 hectare estate has undergone a vast rehabilitation programme. 167 hectares of vines have been replanted with carefully selected traditional Languedoc grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan, complemented by Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. The estate buildings were restored at the same time and a new winery installed in the old cellars, in the heart of the vineyard.

The mature vines and substantial efforts to develop quality have enabled the serenity befitting a former abbey to be restored. The consistency and remarkable potential of the wines produced since 2003 have already positioned Aussières as one of the front runners in the revival of the Languedoc.

The Vineyard

Château d'Aussières0016

The 167 hectare vineyard is situated close to Narbonne, in the Corbières wine appellation, at the heart of the “Fontfroide terroir”. The soil is very shallow and stony on the higher slopes, and becomes deeper and sandier in the plains. In some parts of the vineyard, outcrops of pink sandstone make mechanical work difficult.

Two thirds of the vineyard are in the Corbières AOC appellation (grape varieties: Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault) and one third in the Vin de Pays d’Oc appellation (Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot).

The vineyard is managed in the traditional Corbières style with 4,400 vines/ha trained on trellises. As the vineyard is still young, yields have been kept very low (around 35 hl/ha), to encourage strong root development and the vine’s structure while at the same time ensuring a very high quality harvest. On the basis of the excellent results that have been achieved, it was decided, as the vines now begin to mature, to continue this practice.

The property is managed by Olivier Richaud, Domaine d’Aussières’ Manager? accompanied by the estate team – notably Mathieu Mocquet, Cellar and Production Manager, and Jean-Charles Forge, Vineyard Manager. Olivier Trégoat, Technical Director of Château Rieussec, Château L’Evangile, Château Paradis Casseuil and Long Dai provides technical support.

The Cellar

A new, entirely renovated, winery has been built at Aussières. State-of-the-art technology ensures meticulous care from the harvest to bottling.

Due to the diversity of the grape varieties, the harvest at Aussières starts in early September and continues until early October. The red grape varieties are vinified according to traditional Bordeaux methods or using the technique from the Languedoc of extended carbonic macerations. For the white wines, after maceration on the skins, the white grapes are partially vinified in barrels to add extra complexity to the wine. Regular tastings begin right after vinification to ensure rigorous selection for each wine.

40% of Château d’Aussières’ Grand Vin is aged in oak barrels (half of which are new) and bottled after 12 to 16 months ageing. 20% of Blason d’Aussières is aged in barrels and bottled after 12 months ageing. The barrels are supplied by the Domaines’ Cooperage in Pauillac. Aussières Rouge is aged in vats and bottled the year after the harvest. Aussières Blanc is bottled in the spring after the harvest in order to preserve its freshness.