He will hate me saying this, but Anthony Barton — now in his late eighties — is the grand old man of Bordeaux. Co-owner with his daughter, Lilian Barton-Sartorius, of the fabled Châteaux Léoville & Langoa Barton, Anthony represents the eighth generation of his family in Bordeaux, the links having first been forged in the 1720s when Thomas Barton (‘French Tom’) left Ireland for the Gironde to found the wine-shipping firm of Barton & Guestier.
Anthony, too, left Ireland for Bordeaux (in the 1950s) and is famed for his easy-going, French-polished, Irish charm, his unshakeable integrity and for producing the most fairly priced fine wines in the region. I can also attest to the fact that he’s a forgiving sort. When I first met him 15 years ago, I quailed somewhat as he and my late father had a tremendous falling out over something footling (my father could and would fall out with anyone and anything), but Anthony batted my concerns away and was affable charm incarnate.
The great man set up Les Vins Fins Anthony Barton in 1968 to produce and sell wines from the family estates as well as from carefully selected winegrowers elsewhere in Bordeaux. The range has recently been revamped and the wines are better than ever. Thanks to the good offices of Laura Taylor of Private Cellar, I’m delighted to be offering a small selection of them here, to be shipped over especially for Spectator readers in mid February.
All four wines boast the same attention to detail as those of Léoville & Langoa do (Anthony wouldn’t put his name to them if they didn’t) and they’re easy-going and accessible in style and price. As AB once told me: ‘I take winemaking very seriously, but believe wine drinking should be fun.’
The 2017 Anthony Barton Bordeaux Blanc (1) is 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and 100 per cent tasty. The fruit, drawn from vineyards in the Entre Deux Mers and Graves, is fresh and zingy with touches of citrus and hints of something tropical. It’s not as flamboyant as New Zealand Sauvignon, of course, but it’s rounded and enticing and far less austere than many Sauvignons in this price bracket. It makes a cracking aperitif. £11.50 down from £12.75.
The 2016 Anthony Barton Bordeaux Supérieur (2) is a blend of Merlot (mainly) and Cabernet Franc with just a splash of cassis-rich Cabernet Sauvignon to give backbone and oomph. It’s soft, supple and almost shamelessly approachable. Luscious and succulent, with red and dark bramble fruit and a whisper of spice, it’s pretty much perfect claret for the price. £12.45 down from £13.75.
The 2016 Anthony Barton Pauillac (3) hails from a well-known property in Pauillac near mighty Château Mouton Rothschild and the much-revitalised Château Pontet-Canet, and is a definite step up in quality. An almost 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with just a touch of Cabernet Franc for seasoning, it spent almost a year in new and old oak before bottling. From a stellar vintage, it’s designed to be drunk in its youth. You could keep it for sure, but I say slosh it into a decanter and enjoy. £22.60 down from £25.
Finally, the 2017 Anthony Barton St. Julien (4), a blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot from a well-known Cru Classé estate in St Julien. Hmmm, I wonder which one it could be… The wine spent six months in oak before bottling and, although still tight-knit and unyielding initially, there’s plenty of scrumptious, dark, plummy fruit, spice and liquorice, and it opens up very nicely in the glass. There’s definitely no rush here though, and I’d be inclined to tuck it away for a year or so longer. £23.40 down from £26.
The mixed case has three bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.