The Bartons Buy Another Château

September 29th 2011, by

This article appeared in the blog of Livex – the Fine Wine Exchange – and in the subscriber section called Inside Information on JancisRobinson.com.

Anthony Barton and his daughter, Lilian

It has been a few years since the Barton family of Château Langoa-Barton bought a château. Not since the 1820s, in fact, when Hugh Barton, having first acquired Langoa in 1821, purchased part of the Léoville estate in 1826 that would later become Château Léoville-Barton. Both Langoa and Léoville were included in the famous 1855 classification and, along with Château Mouton-Rothschild, are the only Châteaux since 1855 to remain under the same family ownership. Anthony Barton and his daughter Lilian run the two Saint-Julien estates today.

So when Lilian told me last Friday, on the final day of their harvest, that they had just purchased a property called Château Mauvesin in Moulis, I was quite surprised.

“The previous owner wanted to keep it quiet until after everything was signed in August. Since then we’ve invested in a lot of equipment for the new vintage but haven’t told anyone.” Intrigued, and with an invitation to go and have a snoop, I drove the short distance down the D2 from Saint-Julien to Moulis, an appellation that includes the famous Château names of Chasse-Spleen and Poujeaux. Château Mauvesin lies just off the D1215, near Castelnau-de-Médoc, and no doubt many people in the wine trade have driven straight past the entrance without ever noticing the small sign, on their way up to Pauillac via Listrac.

Château Mauvesin

It’s a beautiful estate, with 48 hectares of vines in a single block surrounding the Château, complete with parkland and a lake. 40 of those hectares, which are planted with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in roughly equal measure, are in the Moulis appellation, the rest being Haut-Médoc.

The property has been owned by the Baritault du Carpia family and their predecessors since the late 15th century – making the Bartons look like Johnny-come-latelies – and the imposing, classically proportioned Château was built in 1853. Lilian Barton and her husband Michel Sartorius, who beat off foreign competition to buy the place (you’d never guess where from), will live at the Chateau with their two grown-up children. Under the terms of the sale, the previous owner’s elderly mother will continue to live there with them. I’ve heard from another Château owner that the spritely 101 year-old matriarch puts in 45 minutes each day on her exercise bike.

20 cuves (vats) have just been installed

The chai, where the wine is made, is a short walk from the château, and 20 gleaming stainless steel, temperature-controlled vats have just been installed in what had previously been the barrel cellar. “Only there weren’t any barrels left to worry about”, Lilian said.

The contrast of the Barton’s new ambition with the old regime is symbolised by the state-of-the-art sorting machine located next to the traditional concrete receiving bin into which the grapes used to be tipped.

New grape sorting machine

The Bartons have finished harvesting the Merlot and are making a start on the later-ripening Cabernet this week.

Château Mauvesin is currently sold in French supermarkets, in the main, but this is likely to change. I bought the 2010 in Carrefour and it’s a decent enough wine. There is, however, more than enough character and sense of place to suggest that there’s a rosier future ahead.

The cunning plan, as it stands, is to call the new wine Château Mauvesin-Barton. After all, sticking the word Barton on the end of a Château name hasn’t done them any harm.

4 comments

  • Tim Walter replied:

    Bauduc-Quinney has a cetain ring to it!

    Sorry I didn't make it to Ch Bauduc when I was passing through Bordeaux in July – perhaps next year.

    Kind regards

    Tim

    October 6th, 2011 at 11:36 am. Permalink.

  • Gavin replied:

    Thanks for the comment, Tim. See you here another time.

    October 11th, 2011 at 9:48 am. Permalink.

  • Ken Tickle replied:

    Nice read! I searched you out because I have a yound friend, the daughter of a Chinese businessman currently living in London. I moved to France and she has been to and from China talking to her father who last year bought 12,000 bottles of Margaux! She now mentions your Chateau (Mauvesin)and hints it is a popular wine for her fathers'importer-friends in China. Watch this space. Perhaps a visit may arise in 2012. Meanwhile Bonne annee.

    December 27th, 2011 at 11:58 am. Permalink.

  • Gavin replied:

    Thanks for that, Ken. Bonne Année to you too.

    December 27th, 2011 at 2:49 pm. Permalink.

Leave a comment





Trackback URI