Vintage Viticulture

The Médoc, in which the Barton family procure their wines, is much the same as it was when Irish-born Thomas Barton settled in Bordeaux in 1725. With 10 generations of passion and hard work, the Barton family are believed to be the longest owning single-family of any vineyard in Bordeaux, and have been based in the beautiful Château Langoa and Léoville-Barton since 1821.

The Barton History

Having left Ireland in 1722, Thomas began working in France for his trade-savvy uncles, where he travelled from Montpelier to Marseille and onto Bordeaux. His final destination ignited his passion for wine and soon he launched his first company, which later became Barton & Guestier. By 1737, Thomas was not only at the helm of what was a financially successful company, but he was renowned throughout Bordeaux for his business acumen and was nicknamed ‘French Tom’.

With Thomas’ passing, the company was passed from his son, William to his grandson, Hugh over the late 1700s, while flourishing with every generation and turn. But The Revolution broke out, only to leave Hugh in prison. He later fled to England and Ireland, while keeping important ties with his partners in France. Eventually, business prospered and he bought Château Langoa and Léoville in Saint-Julien, as well as building a house in Ireland for future Barton generations. “Some generations have naturally been more active than others,” Anthony, who is at the helm of the estate today, explains. “Thomas’ grandson, Hugh was very instrumental in developing the business and future generations followed in his footsteps.”

Three generations of the Barton family succeeded Hugh as owners of the two vineyards, while mostly living in Ireland. Ronald Barton–who would be the seventh generation in the dynasty–re-established the family’s affairs in France, as he returned to Bordeaux in 1924. Aside from the intermittent World War II that he fought in, Ronald devoted his entire life to the properties. Finding the Château neglected after the war, he restored it and donated it to his nephew, Anthony, who remains at the helm of the estate today, along side his daughter Lilian Barton Sartorius.

Without disregarding tradition, the more recent members of the family have concentrated on the progress that has been made both in France and other wine producing countries. “Oenology is a comparatively new science and has been very much studied by Mélanie Barton Sartorius, Lilian’s daughter,” Anthony proudly indulges. “She has a degree in Oenology. We look at the long term and we very much believe in the importance of ‘terroir’ and consequently produce an authentic Saint-Julien wine of great finesse and perfect balance avoiding the trend of excessive extraction and extreme alcohol.”

Terroir and Wines

Located in the haut-Médoc district of Bordeaux, the appellation Saint-Julien is an illustrious haven for red wine. The vineyards in the area lie on a bed of complex and well-drained subsoil and gravel, which gives each vine a disparate character and grape to its neighbouring vine. “Saint-Julien appellation has a mythical terroir which offers elegance but character,” Anthony explains. “We have to be very careful to pick the grapes at the right time and not to over extract the wine, in order to keep our classical style.”

The two wines from the Langoa and Léoville-Barton estate stand tall amongst worldwide red wines, thanks to their distinctive contrasts in bouquet and palate. The vineyards are planted to 74 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 23 per cent Merlot and 3 per cent Cabernet Franc for Léoville Barton, while Langoa Barton’s terroir is shared with 57 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 34 per cent Merlot and 9 per cent Cabernet Franc.

Balancing subtle bouquets and flavours, the wines are deemed typical of the Saint-Julien area, with emphasis on elegance and finesse rather than on power and extraction. This is achieved by picking the grapes at their maximum ripeness and allowing fermentation to take place at a controlled temperature of 30/ 32C. The wines boast a deep colour and sufficient tannins to have a good ageing structure.

Cellars

200-hectolitre wooden vats–some of which date back to 1963–hold the wines and begin the vinification process. The wines are aged in the vats for 25 to 30 years, with careful thermo-regulation and fermentation.

Key to the Bartons’ ethos is to“use all the modern methods in keeping our authentic cellars”. Modern machinery is used to get the process going a little quicker, but the respect and devotion to the procedure. “Our aim is to make excellent wine with finesse and elegance, while maintaining our worldwide reputation and demand.”

Find out more aboutChâteau Langoa and Léoville-Barton here |www.leoville-barton.com