When most of the châteaux in Bordeaux are following the latest trend of using an army of amphoras in their new chai under construction, Leoville Barton stays with its historic recipe of wooden vats for making and ageing the wine. Tasting their vintage, they manage to achieve as always perfect balance.
You cant really go wrong with a St Julien wine. It is a small appellation with terrific terroir right across it. When the restaurant list is handed to me and I have to choose the wine, any St Julien wine will not let you down (if we can afford it that is!) even if you dont know the actual wine or vintage. In fact there are a total of 900 hectares with a total of 24 properties in St Julien and 11 of them are classified (representing 85% of the terrain).
One of my favorite St Juliens is Château Léoville Barton. It is understated, classic, savoury claret – it doesn’t shout, it speaks gently but firmly and you certainly listen to what it has to say (and feel enticed to want to continue the conversation). During my 30 years in the wine trade, this wine has always been there. At Lay & Wheeler in the early days, I remember buying it with my staff points and leaving it to age for the perfect Christmas bottle. Later at Berry Bros too. Even not such great vintages after a decade or so ageing were delicious.
I remember meeting Anthony Barton, a gentle man if there ever was one. He is now 92 and it is his Lilian his daughter who has been at the helm of this property for a number of years already. Yes there is a new generation in her daughter and son, Melanie and Hugh, representing the 10th génération, who are involved on the business ( Melanie is winemaker and Mauvesin, their property in Moulis 2019 futures sample was tasting the best I have tasted) And yes there are renovations afoot (to be completed for 2021 harvest) with a completely new vat room being built( in the place of the barrel cellar (dedicated to Thomas Barton). The original vat room (that we see from the tasting room) will become a barrel cellar. Smaller vats will enable more precise winemaking plot by plot. There will be 10 original Wooden vats of 200 litres that will come from the original vat room. In addition to 16 vats of 120 litres and 10 of 80 hectolitres. Continuing the wood tradition….
So recently I was lucky enough to taste the 2019 Langoa and Leoville Barton with Lilian- I have never tasted any of them so well.
I found a new exuberance tasting these 2019s which I have never tasted as primeur wines before – perhaps it is the fact that the sun was shining (it was June instead of first week of April) or perhaps the extra few weeks in barrel….or just the vintage effect or…. perhaps a combination of the three. Particularly the Langoa which was as gourmand as a rich chocolate cake but fresh fruit too. Leoville Barton as always suave and classy – again exuberant though but more restrained with the freshness that I love always in these wines. I have had the chance to taste these wines en primeur since 2007 and Leoville Barton has accompanied me often through my life. There are some things you can always count on.