|Classification||2ème Cru Classé|
Léoville has the aristo cut and dash that Langoa does in softness and charm. But this is not too massive nor too intensely concentrated, it should drink at 8-15 years old. A faint hint of menthol, a fine, firm, grippy style, so black in expression it's barely fruit, with chalky, Nebbiolo-ish tannins. Classic black dry aromas and firm spicy tannins, and a sense of energy too. Lovely finish with lots going on. Rating: 94-95 L&S (Apr 2016)
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This is a very focused Barton with ultra-fine tannins that are so polished and chalky. It drives through the center palate with currant and berry character. Full-bodied, polished and straightforward with driving tannin. Love the texture. Class. Yes. Drinking range: 2021 - Rating: 96 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com (Feb 2018)
Deep crimson. Fresh and zesty. Much more lifted than its Langoa stablemate. Really rather glorious actually. Very fresh but with slaty undertow. Now this is a 'mineral' wine! Drinking range: 2028 - 2045 Rating: 18 Jancis Robinson OBE MW - www.JancisRobinson.com (Nov 2017)
Grippy and quite backward - as it often tends to be at this early stage - but this has plenty of fruit power and concentration in reserve, with fine tannins and stylish oak integration. One for the cellar. Drinking range: 2025 - 2035 Rating: 94 Tim Atkin MW, www.timatkin.com (May 2016)
Château Léoville Barton
Saint Julien Deuxième Cru Classé 1855
The story of the Irish Bartons in Bordeaux started as early as 1725, when Thomas Barton arrived in Bordeaux. Thomas worked as a merchant, mostly investing his gains in Ireland, as at the time property of foreigners was forfeit to the French crown on the owner’s death – but he did own Château le Boscq in Saint Estèphe at one point. When ‘French Tom’ died at the grand age of 85 in 1780, all his property went to his son William, who was clearly a more difficult character. The wine business was handed to William’s fourth son Hugh, as the older brothers all inherited estates in Ireland. Hugh took on, in 1786 at the age of 20, a wine business turning over £2.5M. Having married Anna Johnston, the daughter of another Anglo-Irish family in Bordeaux, he managed it effectively until he as his wife were thrown into prison in 1793 during the revolution. Hugh and Anna were unexpectedly freed later that year. As their assets had been seized, and presumably fearing for their lives, they moved back to England and Ireland, although keeping close ties with Bordeaux. The company continued to flourish despite all this, and in 1821 Hugh was able to buy Château Pontet Langlois, which he renamed Langoa Barton. Shortly after, in 1826, he also bought a part of the Léoville estate, which became Léoville Barton. Hugh's original intention, so it is said, in purchasing a portion of the Léoville estate was to sell it back to the Marquis de Las-Cases-Beauvoir who had fled France during the Revolution. The Léoville estate had been seized with an eye to selling it off, but in the end only Hugh’s quarter of it was sold and when the emigré Marquis returned without sufficient means to buy it back, Hugh’s part stayed with the Barton family, becoming Château Léoville Barton. Hugh also bought land in Kildare county and built Straffan House, where Anthony Barton was born in 1930.
The Bartons continued to live mostly in England and Ireland until Ronald Barton arrived in Bordeaux in 1924. Ronald’s father had bought out his cousins, so Ronald inherited the whole of both properties, and he was keenly interested in the vineyards and wines. His career was interrupted by the war, and there was much to do to bring the property back to good order after it, but the success of some of the great vintages of the post-war period like 1948, 1949, 1953, 1955 and 1959 are monuments to what he achieved. Ronald handed over the two Châteaux to his nephew Anthony in 1983, three years before his death.
Anthony worked for the merchant company, Barton & Guestier, which had been bought by Seagram, until 1967. After that he started his own company ‘Les Vins Fins Anthony Barton’ – it was only in 1986 that he and his Danish wife Eva were able to move into Langoa and he was able to devote himself to the vineyards. Anthony’s daughter, Lilian Barton-Sartorius, joined him in the merchant business in 1978, sharing and finally taking over the responsibility for the properties too, and in turn her children, Mélanie, the first oenologist in the family, and Damien, (who completed a short stage at the great commercial finishing school of Lea & Sandeman), have joined her. Mélanie is the technical director of the family’s third Médoc property, Château Mauvesin Barton.
The 50 hectare vineyard of Léoville Barton is on one of the most beautiful deep banks of Pyrenean gravels in the Médoc, part of the bank that is closest to the Gironde, continuing southward from Las Cases and Poyferré, with Ducru Beaucaillou beyond, which gives it a free-draining upper layer over a clay base which is good for retaining moisture in the driest conditions. It is planted with 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc, and managed to retain a high proportion of old vines. It was classified as a 2nd Grand Cru Classé on 1855, when it was already owned by the Bartons, making the family one of the oldest continuous owners in the Médoc (with the Rothchilds at Mouton).
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