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History

The history of Château Léoville Barton is the history of a family who have managed to preserve their inheritance for more than two centuries. From one generation to another the wines produced by this property have maintained the quality of their classification, offering wines at the very top of their appellation.

 Thomas Barton had been brought up in Curraghmore, Co. Fermanagh and left his native    Ireland in 1722 at the age of 27 years old.

He worked with his maternal uncles Thomas and William Dickson who had considerable trade in France. It was in this connection that Thomas was sent to France, first to Montpellier, then to Marseille. He was not therefore pre-destined to be a wine merchant but when in 1725 he went to Bordeaux with its importance as an Atlantic port, Thomas became interested in wine and soon founded his first company which was later to become Barton & Guestier.

He rapidly created a financially successful business with a regular clientele in Ireland. He was a man of great authority, firm but honest in his transactions ; by 1737 he had already made a small fortune and was well respected in Bordeaux where he became known as “French Tom”. In 1743 he introduced his son William to the business but William was a man of very different calibre to his father and their relations were never of the best.

 

 

At this time the French law known as ‘Le Droit d’Aubaine’ stipulated that estates of any foreigner dying in France would revert to the French Crown. Although Thomas had applied for French citizenship, this was not in fact granted until after his death. For this reason he never bought any vineyards in France preferring to invest his considerable profits in property in Ireland.

He did rent an attractive home in the Médoc, Château Le Boscq in Saint-Estèphe, but it was his grandson Hugh who became the first member of the family to actually own a vineyard. Thomas died in 1780 aged 85.

His grandson Hugh increased the value of the business and accumulated a considerable fortune. In 1821 he purchased Château Langoa and in 1826 part of the Léoville estate. In addition he built Straffan House in Ireland, which was to become the family home for three generations. It was Ronald, born in London in 1902 who was again to contribute effectively to the family affairs in France. It was also he who maintained the vineyards during the difficult years between the two world wars.

Anthony came to France in 1951 and in 1983 he became proprietor of the vineyards. Proud of the long family connection with the Bordeaux wine trade, he continues with his daughter Lilian the Barton tradition. Their mutual ambition is to maintain and improve the prestige of the wines of Léoville and Langoa Barton. The meaning of the word "terroir" includes several elements such as soil, climate, topology and geology. In this respect the terroir of Saint-Julien is acknowledged as one of the best in the world for wine production. Château Léoville Barton is situated in the heart of this prestigious appellation.

Soil: gravel and clay Production area: 45 ha Grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

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Vineyards

The word ‘Terroir’ means a lot more than just “soil” which is however its primary significance, but it does also include notions of climate, topology and geology. Although some wine producers particularly in the New World tend to discount ‘Terroir’ as an important factor in the quality of a wine, the vineyards of Langoa and Léoville Barton have no other explanation for the differences in character of the two wines.

These can only be explained by differences of ‘Terroir’ since other important factors such as grape varieties , vine culture and wine making are virtually the same on both proprieties. It is also interesting to note that the analyses of the wines show little variation in terms of alcohol, acidity, tannin etc., yet the two wines do have their own personality and show distinctive contrasts in bouquet and palate. The soil of both vineyards is basically gravelly with clay sub-soil ; the depth at which the clay is to be found and other soil characteristics vary from one part of the vineyard to another making it even more difficult to define exactly what are the major differences in the two vineyards.

Another important factor in the make-up of these vineyards is the drainage: if considerable progress has been made recently in some sectors of wine making, the art of good drainage was well understood and applied by previous generations. To produce good wine, vines do not require rich fertile soil as this would produce big berries with a high ratio of juice to skins, whereas the opposite is the ideal. For the same reason an excess of rainfall is not desirable for making high quality wine and what rain there is must be allowed to drain off rapidly.

At the time of the 1855 classification, Leoville Barton, second Grand Cru and Langoa Barton, 3rd Grand Cru in Saint-Julien, were already owned by the Barton family. They share with only Mouton-Rothschild’s owners, the privilege of a long family continuity.

The 1855 Classification was created to present the most famous Bordeaux wines at the Paris Universal exhibition. The responsibility for drawing it up was given by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce to the "Bordeaux Trade Brokers". The idea was to establish a classification based on many years of trade experience, which was the recognition for each estate of its Terroir and reputation. Information, of course, came from the most reliable sources. Published on April 18,1855, the Classification was the confirmation of an existing market and the evolution over more than a century.

The 50 hectares of Léoville and 17 hectares of Langoa, planted in gravelly soil with a clay sub-soil, include large proportions of old vines in order to obtain the best possible quality. The grape varieties is 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc for Léoville Barton, while Langoa Barton’s terroir is shared as follows 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc. Both properties have the same vinification methods.

The wines are typical of the Saint-Julien area, well balanced wines with subtle bouquets and flavours; the emphasis being on elegance and finesse rather than on power and extraction. This is achieved by picking the grapes at their maximum ripeness and allowing the fermentation to take place at a controlled temperature of 30/32°C. Although excessive extraction is avoided by removing the juice from the skins at the appropriate time, the wines have a lovely deep colour, excellent structure and sufficient tannins to ensure good ageing potential.

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Winemaking

At harvest time the grapes arrive in the ‘Cuvier’ where they are processed and fermented in wooden vats of approximately 200 hectolitres. These big wooden vats are pleasing to the eye and typical of the traditional approach to wine making at Langoa and Léoville Barton. Some years ago it became fashionable to remove wooden vats and replace them with stainless steel. The reason for this was the easier control of temperature during fermentation in stainless steel as opposed to wood.

The Bartons thought that the expense was enormous (around 5 million francs), that the wooden vats had made excellent wines in the past and above all that in the near future a method of controlling temperature in wooden vats would be discovered. This turned out to be true and today a system of thermo-regulation enables the juice to be fermented at the exact temperature desired. So there are no regrets for having kept the wooden vats and they do look better!

 

Although the modern wine making methods permit wine to be drunk at a younger age than in the past, the great vintages may easily be kept for 25 to 30 years and more. It is important to remember that the lighter years drunk at the right time can give more pleasure than the great years drunk before reaching maturity.

But the Bartons do not cling to tradition for tradition’s sake. A most modern crusher-destemmer is in place and the wine press is also one of the latest models. The fermentation normally lasts for about 5 days during which time the juice is pumped over twice a day. The wine is left with the skins for about two weeks, the exact period depending on the quality of the harvest.
It is then drawn off and the skins are pressed to obtain the ‘vin de presse’ a most important component of the final blend. The malo-lactic fermentation then takes place in the vats, after which the wine is drawn off into barrels for ageing in the neighbouring cellars.
And so, the job of the ‘cuvier’ is over for another year.

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Inside information

Anthony Barton was born at Straffan House in Co. Kildare (Ireland) in 1930. He was destined to inherit little or nothing of the family estates. His elder brother Christopher was heir to Straffan and the vineyards in France were owned by his Uncle Ronald who would normally have married and had his own children to whom he would naturally have left his property. Although Ronald did marry late in life he had no children and Anthony thus became his heir.

After studies in Ireland and in England, Anthony came to settle in France in 1951. Once again there were difficulties within the wine trade ; the war had meant many years when exports to traditional markets had come to a complete stop and the lack of demand resulted in such low prices that Langoa and Léoville Barton were running at a loss. The first vintage that Anthony witnessed was 1951, so awful that his Uncle Ronald told him “another vintage like this and I will have to sell” - not a very encouraging start to his new life! Fortunately there were two good years to follow but even so prices remained below a profitable level for some time to come.

The affairs of B&G were better but not brilliant. In 1954 Seagram took a 50% interest in the business and a few years later became majority share-holders. Anthony continued to work as export director until 1967 when he left to start his own firm “Les Vins Fins Anthony Barton”. Although he kept in touch with the activities of the vineyards he was busy creating his new venture and did not take a truly active part at the Châteaux until 1983 when Ronald donated the property to him. Since 1986, Anthony Barton has lived in the château with his wife, Eva, native of Copenhagen.

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2 different wines with 61 vintages

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Latour vertical 1934 - 2005 in Copenhagen / Latour 1961 was, as expected, a monumental wine. Sixty years old wine and not ready yet. Still young and vigorous. Oceans of fruit and tannin perfectly supported by underlying acidity.  Enormous potential! 99-100p.

12d 13h ago

 Erin Larkin, Wine Writer (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  14 wines 

CHATEAU MARGAUX 2017 / 89% cabernet sauvignon, 8% merlot, 2% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot/ 100% new oak. Red currants, succulent and intense, also sweet… great harmony and choral resonance… I realise I’ve drifted off in my own thoughts with this wine… the flavour lingers so. This is BDX, it is the best wine we’ve had today (this week/month etc) and it is the reason why we seek to make and drink better wine. Holy crapola.

1m 4d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  56 wines 

Bordeaux 2020 Vintage - Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020- lots of aromatic blackcurrants and black cherries on the nose, powerful on the palate with a strong backbone, big concentration, multilayered and with great length. Long, long finish. Impressive effort. 96-97p.

4m 5d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  38 wines 

Château Mouton-Rothschild 2020 / Ruby. Fruit driven, cassis, anise, some spices nose, blackberries, intensely scented, almost transparent yet such depth. Fresh acidity, ripe tannins, dark fruits, smooth and detailed, layered, anise, liquorice, deep, long. Superb freshness to it. Such energy. Pauillac is not the place that shines the most in 2020, but this one does. 97-99

4m 11d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  650 wines 

2020 – the paradox vintage 


2020 began with mild temperatures even breaking temperature record highs at the beginning of February. These conditions led to a premature budbreak. Budding developed unevenly, very much depending on the locations although the coo and humid weather in April had not a very significant impact on slowing down the growth of the vines. Finally all the vines came into bloom at the end of May without any significant coulure or millerandage. At the start of June, frequent rain intensified the pressure of mildew. From mid-June, the weather changed. The whole Bordelais saw a period of very dry weather for two months. However, the earlier accumulation of water reserves prevented water stress. Around July 18 a heat wave began to build up but the cool nighty prevented water stress on the wines again. The veraison started at the end of July and went on till the beginning of August. The heatwave in August accentuated water stress, but shorter rainy episodes avoided a complete block. The dry and sunny weather in September encouraged the grapes maturity and harvest started on September 10 with a rather mild weather. Towards the middle of September, rain prevented the fruits from wilting but as its frequency was quite concerning, the haves was pushed forward. "Le diabolique" is the title given to this vintage by Véronique Sanders. It is a very special French word, which is not correctly translated with “diabolic” in English. In France, the expression means to overcome the devil. And the vintners succeeded. 2020 is clearly a vintner’s vintage which asked a permanent reinvention of the wineries, struggling hard with this difficult vintage. However, the vintage surprises with excellent wines, exemplary freshness and elegance and very dense structure. In former times it was said that the vine has to suffer to make exquisite wines, in this vintage the people have suffered to make a great wine. The first part of notes for this tasting with over 800 wines you will find today. More notes will follow over the coming days.

5m 15d ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  33 wines 

2013 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling GG
Pale lemon yellow. Tight, apples, citrus, minerals, ever so slightly scented nose. Fresh acidity, mouthwatering, fresh and lively, detailed, crisp, lovely playfulness, slight apple bitterness in finish, long. 92

11m 21d ago

 Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  25 wines 

The 1966 Petrus is often overshadowed by the 1961 and 1964, however, it remains a great vintage that has held up well. It has a much more reserved earthier bouquet than those aforementioned vintages, more black than red fruit infused with clove, autumn leaves and mahogany bureau. It is beautifully defined and noble, offering ash-like/fireside hearth scents with aeration. The palate is extremely well balanced with fine tannin that are slightly drier and more rigid than the 1964. That said, this bottle demonstrates more flesh than the previous one a couple of years back, a gentle sprinkling of white pepper towards the statesmanlike finish. This benefits from time in the glass, stretching its arms to reveal a deeper, slightly gripper Petrus than initially observed. Outstanding. Tasted at the Petrus dinner at Hide restaurant in London.

1y 25d ago

 Thomas Girgensohn, Wine Blogger (Australia)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Guigal La Mouline is always the more feminine wine of the three, and this is true for the 2015 La Mouline. The grapes come from 100 year old vines with very low yields. This Shiraz includes 10% Viognier, and the wine is matured for two years in new oak. There is no whole bunch included. This wine without doubt was the wine of the night. Fragrant, opulent, fresh, elegant, velvety, pure, silky, spicy; this comes to mind rather than any fruit descriptors. This full-bodied wine has incredible length and stays with you for some time (98 points). 

1y 28d ago

 Stephen Tanzer, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Petrus 1961 / Deep red-ruby color with an amber edge. Utterly singular perfumed, high-pitched aromas of loganberry, cherry and flowers. An awesomely concentrated wine of huge power and depth. Chewy with extract and wonderfully sweet and rich. Shows the strong iron note I often get from merlot on the Pomerol plateau, along with superripe suggestions of cherry liqueur and dark chocolate. Finishes with great grip and length, and a bit less sweetness than the middle palate would suggest. Drink now through 2020.

1y 1m ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  21 wines 

Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte 2018 / This is incredibly complex with hazelnut, currant, berry and dried-flower character. The impression of a vat of fermenting cabernet. Full body, round and juicy tannins and a long, soft and silky finish. Shows the essence of the fruit here. Fascinating. Layered and complex.
Barrel Sample: 98-99

1y 2m ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  50 wines 

BORDEAUX 2019 / Ch. Margaux 2019 - only 37% of the whole production into Grand Vin. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon + 7% Merlot + 2% Cabernet Franc + 1% Petit Verdot, 14.9% alcohol. Ch. Margaux' technical director, Philippe Bascaules, told me, that Merlot needed to be vinified gently due to its voluptuousness and high alcohol. He made a comparison between 2018 and 2019 Grand Vin - "when I taste 2018 Ch. Margaux, I taste 2018 vintage first, then Ch. Margaux. When I taste 2019 Ch. Margaux, it's Ch.  Margaux first, then 2019 vintage!"
It's a showcase of Cabernet Sauvignon with wonderful aromas of cigar box and tobacco leaves. Extremely elegant and multi-faceted, sophisticated and very stylish for the property. Exceptional complexity and purity. Liquid silk. True perfection here! 99-100p. 

1y 3m ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Leoville-Barton . In a tasting of  52 wines 

The Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855 represents all the Châteaux of the worldwide renowned classification which has been established for the world exhibition in Paris in 1855. It is a great chance to taste most of the wines of this illustrious circle. On May 20, 2020 the samples arrived in my office and were stored under pristine conditions to be savoured the following day. As most of the Châteaux have not been able to show their wines yet, it was a unique opportunity to get a broader picture of the vintage 2019. A few Châteaux have already sent wines before the shutdown so that I even had the option to try them a second time. This might explain some slight adjustments in tasting notes and ratings. The Covid-19 crisis is a nightmare -not only for the Primeurs- but in the same time it offered a perfect chance as well. Usually, the Primeurs would have been presented at the end of March. Now, seven to eight weeks later, the wines had more time to mature and to evolve. The samples performed very well and todays tasting confirmed a lot of quotes from producers in Bordeaux. Bruno-Eugène Borie from Château Ducru-Beaucaillou sees 2019 in a line with the excellent vintages of 2016, 2010, 2009 und 2005. Henri Lurton talks about his best vintage, along with 2016, he has ever vinified at Château Brane-Cantenac. Philippe Dhalluin from Château Mouton-Rothschild asses the vintage as rich and abundant in quality and in quantity as well. After some smaller crops they came back to an average production. Emmanuel Cruse from Château d’Issan sees that 2019 has a lot in common with 2016 yet preserving more freshness. It is a very good vintage but appearing at a very difficult time on the market. At Château Coutet in Barsac, Philippe and Aline Baly were harvesting in three passes with a total of 19 harvesting days. They judge the conditions as rather ideal: “These climatic conditions have generated a harvest whose quality is indisputably present.” The result is a vintage with great qualities. In my opinion 2019 is on a comparable quality level with 2018, however showing even more freshness. Terroir might be more important in this vintage than in 2018 but the best ones show truly great wines.

1y 5m ago

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