CHÂTEAU LÉOVILLE BARTON

2017 2ème Cru Classé Saint Julien

EN PRIMEUR

Wow a real stand-out at each occasion we tasted. A text-book Barton and classic St Julien - yet this is ahead of so many in 2017 for its impeccable balance and exciting energy. 93% Cabernet and 7% Merlot this year. An enticing cassis crunch here on the nose - is really attractive. This follows on the palate with a compact coiled energy to the bright and juicy fruit. Blackberry and raspberry notes have a pure feel, there is a lovely precision to it which almost disguises the density and powerful weight of fruit. Beautifully balanced and the intensity is well handled. Energy continues right through. Clean lines, but detailed and nuanced. Lovely level of ripe and fine tannins. They harvested the Merlot between the 15 and 18 September and the Cabernet from the 22nd to 29th. 60% New Wood No frost issues thankfully, a good vintage here according to Damien and Lillian Barton, with just the September rain causing some issues with their Merlot - so they reduced this has mostly gone in to the 2nd wine and we have a high Cabernet level in the Grand Vin - which is delicious. Rating: 95 L&S (Apr 2018)

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Léoville-Barton is one of the very few wines, from any appellation, that combines power and finesse with such grace in 2017. Rich, deep and wonderfully expressive, the 2017 has so much offer. The high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon comes through loud and clear. Inky dark, fruit, game, spice, mint, licorice and lavender all build in a wine of regal elegance and head spinning beauty. For its combination of quality and price, Léoville-Barton remains one the most consumer-friendly wines of the Left Bank. The blend is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot. The September rains were especially challenging for the Merlot and Cabernet Franc. As a result, Cabernet is pushed up in the blend, while there is no Franc at all. Drinking range: 2025 - 2047 Rating: 96 Antonio Galloni, www.vinous.com (Mar 2020)

Packed with ripe, lively plum, blackberry and black currant fruit, backed by melted black licorice and bramble accents throughout, this retains a sense of polish despite its energetic fruit and structure. Ends with an encore of warm plum reduction. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Best from 2023 through 2037. 10,833 cases made. Drinking range: 2023 - 2037James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator (Jan 2020)

The 2017 Léoville Barton has a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon this year at 93%, the remainder is Merlot. It was picked between 15 and 18 September for the Merlot and 22 to 29 September for the Cabernet Sauvignon, then aged in 60% new oak. It has a perfumed and pure bouquet that demonstrates a little more cohesion and refinement than some of its Saint-Julien peers. Blackberry and touches of bilberry fruit, cedar and crushed stone – this is a knockout nose with bags of potential. The palate is medium-bodied with filigree tannin, perfectly pitched acidity and beautifully integrated oak. Seriously, this is nudging (not equaling, nudging!) the 2016 in terms of quality and there are just a handful of properties where I can state that this year. Drinking range: 2022 - 2045 Rating: 93-95 Neal Martin, www.vinous.com (May 2018)

Deepest crimson. Dark, savoury and spicy black fruit with a lovely balsamic note but also a light vanilla sweetness and a more subdued graphite layer. Complex already. On the palate, this is succulent, firm but polished. Tannins are very fine, definite. A harmonious whole and a juicy finish. Drinking range: 2025 - 2035 Rating: 17 Julia Harding MW, www.JancisRobinson.com (Apr 2018)

The 2017 Leoville Barton is deep garnet-purple in color with a nose of warm cassis, fresh blackberries and blueberries with hints of violets, dark chocolate and licorice. Medium-bodied with a rock-solid frame of grainy tannins and wonderful freshness, it gives a fantastic core of fruit and wonderful length. Rating: 91-93 Lisa Perrotti-Brown, RobertParker.com (Apr 2018)

This has a stronger, tighter and more concentrated expression in this vintage than its sister property, although it's not as concentrated as its last few vintages. It's back to a more old school expression for the appellation, suiting the vintage, and it's one of the better-framed wines on display here. Good quality, with ground coffee, dark chocolate and tight cassis notes, all subtly and harmoniously put together. Drinking range: 2024 - 2038 Rating: 95 Jane Anson, Decanter (Apr 2018)

The deep, inky-colored 2017 Léoville-Barton is a classic, powerhouse wine from this estate that’s going to need bottle age. Loads of black and blue fruits, violets, classy oak, and ample minerality all soar from the glass. It’s medium to full-bodied, concentrated, and backward on the palate. With fabulous purity and integrated acidity, forget bottles for 5-6 years and enjoy over the following two decades. The blend in 2017 is 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot, harvested from the 15th to the 29th of September, and aging in 60% new French oak. Rating: 94-96 Jeb Dunnuck, www.jebdunnuck.com (Apr 2018)

This is a really excellent Leoville-Barton with wonderful cabernet sauvignon character of blackberries, blackcurrants and flowers. Full body, firm and lightly chewy tannins and a long and beautiful finish. This has tension and brightness. Rating: 94-95 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com (Apr 2018)

This manages to pack in some serious plum, blackberry and black currant compote flavors, along with layers of melted black licorice and tar on the finish. This has a density that sets it apart from the pack in the vintage, with a lovely roasted apple wood note on the finish. Rating: 93-96 James Molesworth, The Wine Spectator (Apr 2018)

Tasted alongside its stablemate Langoa-Barton, this barrel sample presents a rather appealing nose, filled with fresh, sweet, glossy and ultimately convincing fruit character on the nose. Compared to many other wines in the commune, it has greater purity, definition and expression, presenting the aromas of crushed black cherry and sweet blackcurrant too, dressed with a little toast from the oak, and an icing-sugar intensity. The palate shows real substance at the start in keeping with that confident nose, with a lovely polished-fruit presence, very confident, medium-bodied but correct. This comes with a fine underpinning of fresh tannic grip, really wrapping itself tightly around the fruit on the palate. It has a sense not only of balance but of real potential. It has length too, where harmony and freshness abound. This is a quite lovely result in this vintage. Rating: 93-95 Chris Kissack, www.thewinedoctor.com (Apr 2018)

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).