Château Léoville Barton

Château Léoville Barton is a wine producer in the Saint-Julien AOC, on the Left Bank of the French wine region of Bordeaux.

The heritage of the family goes back to the 18th century, with the first generations of Barton’s establishing several businesses throughout the wine industry, both as merchants and producers.

The legacy of Barton’s family as wine-makers begins in 1722, when Thomas was sent to France. A few years later, he settled in Bordeaux and started a career as wine merchant alongside his family. An able businessman, he was well respected in the local Bordeaux community, who nicknamed him “French Tom”.

As a law called “Droit d’Aubaine” stated that all assets belonging to a foreigner would go to the French Crown at death, Thomas avoided purchasing vineyards in Bordeaux, the first member of the family to do so was his grandson Hugh. As was the case for many foreigners, Hugh was arrested in France, along with his wife, and imprisoned for a few months at the end of 1793, subsequently persuaded him to return to England. He kept his businesses alive in Bordeaux, however, founding, among the others, the wine merchant company Barton & Guestier.

In 1821, Hugh purchased the Château Langoa Barton, an iconic building that still features on the label of wines produced by the estate. More importantly though, in 1826, he purchased a plot from the Leoville domain, which he called Leoville Barton. This was eventually labelled as Second Growth in the famous Bordeaux classification of 1855.

In the 20th century, it would be remiss to not mention Ronald, who moved to Bordeaux in 1924, after completing his studies at the prestigious schools of Eton and Oxford. The outbreak of the Second World War led to his conscription and, upon his return in 1945, he found vineyards in very poor condition.

The following fifteen years saw the relentless of Ronald pay dividends as he restored the prestige of the domaine, with several outstanding vintages inspiring the return of Leoville Barton back its former glory.

Ronald’s nephew, Anthony, inherited Leoville Barton after spending many years across the various wine businesses of the Barton family. In 1983, he took control of the estate, maintaining tradition and employing the expertise of other members of the family, such as Lilian and Mélanie, the family’s first oenologist, thus carrying on a family tradition of winemaking that now goes back nine generations.

Château Léoville Barton has about 50 hectares of planted vineyards, with a relatively high percentage of old vines that ensure character and quality.

Grapes are mostly represented by Cabernet Sauvignon, 74% of planted vineyards. 23% of the vines are planted with Merlot and a little 3% is dedicated to Cabernet Franc, the traditional variety in Médoc.

The estate produces two wines: Château Leoville Barton and La Réserve de Leoville Barton.

The soil at Léoville Barton is characterised by gravel layers of different heights and depths. The subsoil sees the presence of gravelly clay that helps regulate the climatic variation of the vintages. The combination of these conditions, along with the nurturing of the vines, make red wines produced by the estate highly unique.

Vines are kept to a high planting density of 9100 vines per hectare, hence replacing missing or imperfect stocks occurs yearly. The average age is 40 years, with the oldest vines dating back to 1953.

While the domaine is not organic certified, a more sustainable approach has been adopted in recent years, increasing the portion of vineyards that are cultivated organically. The choice of fertilisers, a reduction in emissions and waste sorting are only few of the actions put in place to strengthen this organic, sustainable trend.

Grapes are hand-picked during harvest, preserving the quality of each cluster and allowing a thorough sorting. This occurs immediately after the stems have been removed and before their transfer to temperature controlled wooden vats.

During the few days of fermentation, colour and aromas from the skin of the grapes are released into the juice by pumping it over the top of the vat twice a day. Ageing normally takes around 18 months with a relatively high percentage of new oak in the barrels, around 60%. This practice imparts a high degree of character to the wines.

After racking, a process performed every three months to separate the wine from the sediment, a traditional method called “fining” takes place. Egg whites are put into the barrels after 14 months to attract floating particles and further clarify the wine. The egg white is removed after 45 days through a process called “post-fining racking”.

Finally, it’s the turn of blenders and tasters, who assess the quality of the vintage. Bottling takes place in June at the château facilities in Saint Julien.

Léoville Barton wines typically have tannic and austere notes at their early stages, but with age the characteristic cedar, blackcurrant and cassis begin to blossom, bringing with it an intensity and fruitiness.

For this reason, these masculine and beefy wines are not recommended to be approached for up to 10 to 15 years.

The Beauty & The Taste selected for you a 2010 La Reserve de Leoville Barton, Saint-Julien.