The Battle for Austerlitz . . . in Saint Emilion

The Sud Ouest newspaper has reported on a story about the Battle for Austerlitz – in this case they are not referring to the battle that was one of Napoleon’s greatest victories but a little known – and somewhat forgotten – chateau in Saint Emilion.

 Chateau Austerlitz lies in what used to be known as Sables Saint Emilion which was a satellite appellation aptly named for its sandy soils. It covered the area south east of Libourne and was incorporated into the Saint Emilion AOC in 1973.

The origin of Chateau Austerlitz’s name remains a mystery but the paper suggests it was either named in honour of Napoleon’s famous victory against the Austrians and Russians in 1805 or in honour of the Libournais Chevalier (Knight) Étienne Noël Delor who was a squadron leader in Napoleon’s army.

The battle for Chateau Austerlitz is this – it is to be sold and there are concerns that it may end up either as a building plot and having its vines pulled up or that a Chinese investor will snap it up. There is plenty of potential to attract an enterprising wine maker as the chateau’s heritage is important.

The brand / trademark Chateau Austerlitz has recently been renewed with the National Institute of Intellectual Property, which gives me the hope that it will remain a wine producing chateau.

The reason for the sale of the chateau is that its current owner, Gerard Audigay, is of failing health and has lived in a nursing home since 2008. Audigay has been a widower for several years and inherited the estate from his wife – who had acquired it from an old Libourne family, the Auxires.

The couple never had children, and after the death of his wife, Audigay never remarried. The only potential heirs known on both sides of the family are nieces and nephews, none of whom are sadly in the financial position to purchase the property, pay the inheritance tax or manage it.

The manager, Francis Laveau, told the paper that Audigay ended up in hospital with a hip problem after living alone in the chateau in the midst of his vineyards.

Since Audigay had no immediate family the Judge appointed Laveau as manager of the estate. It seems Chateau Austerlitz must be sold to pay for Audigay’s continued residence at the nursing home.

The estate comprises of nearly 15 acres of vines that fall into the Saint Emilion AOC, 5 acres in the Lalande de Pomerol AOC and a couple of plots of vines in Condat.

The vineyard has been managed by Bernard Darcos who leased it during the 1990s, producing wines under the Saint Emilion AOC. The vineyard is marked by a high proportion of Merlot (80%), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (5%).

Audigay’s nieces and nephews are naturally upset by the sale and have fond memories of childhood holidays at the chateau. The paper reports that one niece came regularly to clean the chateau up until the end of October and that the house has remained frozen in time.

Laveau understands the importance of Chateau Austerlitz’s heritage and is determined to keep the chateau as a vineyard and not lose it to Libourne’s growing suburbs.

Photo Credit SP Sud Ouest

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