Tag Archives: Chateau Leoville Barton

Women making Sense in Bordeaux

If you think women in the world of the wine world is something new and/or unusual, where have you been in recent years? You might be forgiven for thinking that in such a traditional bastion of wine as Bordeaux, women in the vineyards and cellars might be more unusual that in other regions  – think again. Historically, there have always been influential women on the Bordeaux wine scene, as well as many others working behind the scenes.

Some of Bordeaux’s leading vineyards are still going strong today thanks to the historical role of women. Jean de Bellon was the first owner of Chateau Haut Brion in the 16th century and it’s not only Champagne that has famous widows. As a young widow, Françoise Josephine de Sauvage d’Yquem was thrown into prison twice during the French revolution but she continued to make Château d’Yquem prosper. The Comtesse de Bournazel successfully took over the reigns of the family Chateau de Malle in Sauternes on the death of her husband, before handing it over to her son. Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is named after another Comtesse responsible for its success.

Properties may be handed down from fathers to daughters who continue to grow the family estates. Famously Baroness Philippine Rothschild continued and expanded her father’s work at Mouton Rothschild, Corinne Mentzelopoulos owns and runs Chateau Margaux with her daughter. More recently, Siaska Rothschild took over running Château Lafite from her father Baron Eric, and Stephanie de Bouard-Rivoal is now in charge of Chateau Angelus alongside her cousin Thierry Grenié,with Emmanuelle Fulchi their cellar master. There is nothing new about feminine power in Bordeaux wine.

Not so long ago it was unusual to see a woman working in the cellars – with an older generation of male wine makers talking about women ‘turning’ the wine – and that is still in living memory. Women are now making the wines as well as owning, running and marketing them. A few that come to mind, and not only in the top growths, are Marjolaine de Cornack at Chateau Marquis d’Alesme, Maylis De Laborderie at Chateau La Lagune, (both working with female owners), Paz Espejo at Château Lanessan and Caroline Artaud at Château Forcas Hostens. Some women are carrying on from the parents in a family vineyard, such as Estelle Roumage at Chateau Lestrille, Armelle Falcy Cruse at Château du Taillan, and I could go on.

I organized my first Women in Wine Tour in Bordeaux back in  2007, so again nothing new here, but these women, and many more, came back on my radar thanks to the recent visit here in Bordeaux of the American association Women for Wine sense (WWS). Created in 1990 by two leading Californian women in wine, Michaela Rodeno and Julie Johnson, WWS aims to increase knowledge about wine through education as a counterweight to the anti-alcohol lobby. Their premise is a better understanding of wine leads to more responsible consumption. The success of this organisation has been phenomenal; they now have a network of 10 chapters and growing throughout the US and a charitable arm that sponsors wine education for women in the industry.

I have run several Bordeaux seminars for WWS members in the US over the last year but this was their first trip to Bordeaux. With Decanter Tours it seemed only natural to concentrate on vineyards with a feminine signature, choosing properties for them to visit that were owned by, managed by or where women made the wine. I’m aware it’s sexist – but it was great fun!

We were spoilt for choice with just three days we only scratched the surface. Following their tour, I wanted to use this post to profile some of the leading women in Bordeaux but as I started looking at the long list I realised that it would take a book rather than a blog post to do them justice, so I’ll just concentrate on the women that offered us such a warm welcome and amazing hospitality during our tour.

Margaux has traditionally been considered the most feminine of all the Medoc appellations, thanks to its signature sumptuousness and velvety tannins, so it seemed like the perfect place to start. Chateau Margaux is known as the most feminine of all the 1st growths by its style as well as being owned and run by Corinne and Alexandra Mentzelopoulos. The harvest had just started when we were there, with a man at the helm; Philippe Bascules splits his wine making between Bordeaux and Napa – and was very excited about explaining  the complementarity of making wines both sides of the Atlantic – he is a very busy man!

Bascules a Margaux

With Philippe Bascaules wine maker at Chateau Margaux above the new Pavillon Blanc cellars.

Further north, Lilian and Melanie Barton Sartorius, another mother and daughter team, are working together. As Lilian takes on more and more responsibility at the family vineyards, Leoville and Langoa Barton, her daughter Melanie, the eighth generation of the Bartons in Bordeaux and the first qualified oenologist of the family, has taken over the wine making at their new vineyard Mauvesin Barton in Moulis, purchased in 2011.

Lilian and Melanie at Mauvesin

Lilian and Melanie Barton-Sartorius at Chateau Mauvesin

We also met the latest member of the family, Oona, the Parson Russell terrier puppy, who completely stole the limelight!


The newest member of the Barton family

Pascale Peyronie welcomed us to her family property Chateau Fonbadet in Pauillac. After working alongside her father for 20 years, she has stepped into his shoes to run the vineyard. Her vines are on some of the best and priciest gravel terroir in Pauillac, smack in the middle of the famous names of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Lynch Bages, Chateau Pichon Baron and Longueville Comtesse. You can imagine that she has received some interesting offers for her vines, but she continues to produce Chateau Fonbadet as an independent Cru Bourgeois rather than succumbing to the temptation of an easier life, although she did exchange three ha of vines with Mouton Rothschild to re-organise the vineyard. When she showed us around, her 92-year-old father was still on hand to meet the ladies and help serve the wine.

Fonbadet barrel

Is it a characteristic for women to work more closely together? We had several examples of collaboration between neighbouring women in wine which make me think that perhaps it is.

Four properties in Margaux owned and/or managed by women have grouped together to welcome visitors into their chateaux. Well aware that chateau visits can be repetitive (vines, cellars, barrels, tasting, repeat), Lise Latrille of Château Prieuré Lichine, Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Marie Laure Lurton of La Tour Bessanand Anne-Francoise Quié of Chateau Rauzan Gassies have grouped together to create a ‘Une Journée Gourmande à Margaux’. These dynamic women explained this project to us over lunch in the beautiful kitchens of Chateau Prieuré Lichine.

Prieure kitchen

Ladies who lunch at Chateau Prieuré Lichine

Their idea was to create a tour where each visit concentrates on a different part of the wine process.  The tour starts at Château Prieuré-Lichine, with a history of the Medoc while sipping on their white wine (yes there are some rare white wines in the Medoc even though they don’t carry the name). Then at Chateau Rauzan Gassies they explore the importance of terroir, tasting the wines from the three vineyards owned by the Quié family. Lunch at Chateau Kirwanis the opportunity to taste the wines from all four vineyards paired with regional dishes before a visit to Château La Tour Bessan to try your hand at blending, tasting your results alongside local chocolates – there’s a reason this is called a ‘Gourmande’ tour.

Margaux gourmand girls

Nathalie Schyler of Chateau Kirwan, Lise Latrille of Château Prieure Lichine and Marie-Laure Lurton of Château La Tour Bessan.

Margaux gourmande

Women do seem to be very open to developing wine tourism. I was recently asked to cover leading women winners of best of Wine Tourism awards reinforcing this impression. Chatting with Florence Cathiard at Château Smith Haut Lafite, one of the pioneers of wine tourism in the region, it was interesting to compare the European and the American approach to wine tourism. The chateau with its open door policy, new land art exhibition alongside the more traditional visits, as well as the phenomenal success her daughters have had, both with The Sources de Caudalie resort and the Caudalie cosmetics is a case study for successful wine tourism.


Talking wine tourism with Florence Cathiard at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

We had another experience of collaboration with the women of sweet Bordeaux. A picnic lunch in the park of Chateau de Ceronswith Caroline Peyromat and her neighbour Nicola Alison from Chateau du Seuil, was the ideal way to discover the characteristics of the tiny Cerons appellation but also to share their red and white wines from the Graves appellation.

Then on to Sauternes and Barsac for a progressive dinner, the idea was to show just how food friendly the sweet wines of Bordeaux really are. After a visit and tasting at Chateau Yquem with cellar Master Sandrine Garbay, and a look at the new in-chateau boutique, we headed down the hill to the terrace of Château Sigalas Rabaud. Here, with tapas, we tasted the range of wines made by owner wine maker Laure de Lambert including her 100% dry Sémilion (La Semillante) and a Sweet Bordeaux made with no Sulphur le 5 – quite a technical challenge.

Mout at Sigalas

Tasting the semillon juice at Chateau Sigalas Rabaud before fermentation

Then on to Barsac, to first growth Château Climensfor the main course served with three vintages from the property, after discovering where owner wine maker Berenice Lurton dries and prepares the herbs she uses in her biodynamic preparations.

Climens Tissanerie

La Tisanerie at Château Climens in Barsac

Climens sunset

Climens 3 vintages

And of course dessert served at neighbour Château Coutet by Aline Baily, and we all slept soundly on the coach all the way home!

Coutet Chapel

The chapel at Château Coutet

Coutet with desert

We found this same spirit of cooperation in Pomerol. The neighbours came over to lunch organised by Monique Bailly at the new Ronan by Client winery of Château Client. Hosted by Nathalie Bez, we were joined by Maireille Cazaux Director and wine maker at Chateau La Conseillante and Diana Berrouet Garcia Wine maker at Chateau Petit Village.Tasting their wines side by side, although they are so close, showed just how important the notion of terroir can be even in as small an appellation as Pomerol.

Pomerol bottles

Tasting with the neighbors in Pomerol

Cellar master Emmanuel Fulchi hosted us at Chateau Angelus, taking us into the vineyard to get to grips with the terroir in their two properties, Chateau Angelus and Chateau Bellevue. Walking amongst the almost ripe grapes, we could understand the subtle differences of terroir up and down the south facing foothills of the limestone slopes of Saint Emilion.

Emmanuelle Fulchi

Emmanuelle Fulchi explains the Saint Emilion terroir at Château Angelus

The tasting was a master class in right bank Merlot. Bellevue is 100% Merlot and Angelus a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Recently returned from a Merlot seminar in the US, Emmanuel shared her surprise at the reputation Merlot suffers from in the States. The tasting firmly dispelled any questions hanging over the great potential of Merlot on the right bank.


The Women for Wine Sense visit was both an opportunity to shine a light on the women in Bordeaux but also to dispel a few Bordeaux myths. They are planning to return, so it’s back to the drawing board to see which other Bordeaux Women in Wine we can visit on their next trip – we will be spoilt for choice.


Behind every great wine…. there’s another one.

For those in the know, the second wines of top Bordeaux estates have long been considered some of the best value drinking in town.

Rather than a ‘dustbin’ for everything that isn’t good enough to make the grade of the first wine, these wines carry the château name, are part of the brand, and are treated as such. Not only do they profit from the know-how of the same wine-making team but they may be made from parcels and lots kept specifically for these wines, perhaps from younger vines or different terroir, often giving a lighter expression, benefiting from a lighter oak treatment giving easier and earlier drinking wines – more approachable both in style and in price! Their quality continues to grow as many properties are introducing third wines, Le Pauillac de Chateau Latour since 1990, and the Petit Lion de Marquis de Las Cases since 2007, to name but a couple.

Whilst these wines are now on most wine enthusiasts’ radar, it’s worth taking a peek behind these chateau labels, as many of the top properties have other strings to their bows.

In the official figures for 2015, released by the CIVB earliest this year, the number of growers, all Gironde wines combined, was 6,822 (fallen by half in the last 20 years). The total number of wine properties is probably nearer 10 000 however as many of the ‘Growers’ are the fortunate owners of several properties.

Although the other wineries owned by top growths may not be classified, these lesser-known properties will also benefit from the know-how of the top winery teams, the deep(er) pockets of their owners and the marketing push as they are presented alongside their big brothers at tastings. Other advantages include access to newer barrels with a guaranteed provenance, as barrel turnover will be faster in top growths that use a higher percentage of new oak.

Chateau Le Crock

Chateau Le Crock

I was reminded of this when I visited Chateau Le Crock recently. Chateau Le Crock is a magnificent chateau perched high on a gravel outcrop of Saint Estèphe, in between prestigious neighbours Chateau Montrose and Cos d’Estournel. It is a Cru Bourgeois, part of the new classification as well as the original one. The owners, the Cuvelier family, are also owners of Chateau Leoville Poyferre, second growth of Saint Julien, as well as Chateau Moulin Riche. Moulin Riche used to be considered a second wine of the property but now is a stand-alone label, the second wine is Le Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre.

Tasting Moulin Riche and Leoville Poyferre

Tasting Moulin Riche and Leoville Poyferre

The neighbouring Leovilles also have other properties; Chateau Leoville Barton is also home to Chateau Langoa Barton, (although originally it was the other way round, as the cellars of Langoa welcomed the wines of Leoville back in the 1800s). The Barton family have more recently invested in Moulis, at Chateau Mauvesin Barton, as I mentioned in a previous post. Chateau Leoville Las Cases also has hidden treasures, the Delon family own Chateau Potensac in the north of the Medoc appellation.

The line up of Barton family bottles

The line up of Barton family bottles

This is not a uniquely Saint Julien affair, just next door in Pauillac several top properties have hidden jewels; Chateau Pichon Baron, a second growth of Pauillac, owns Chateau Pibran a neighbouring Pauillac property and, across the road, when Roederer purchased Pichon Comtesse they also bought the lovely Chateau de Pez in Saint Estephe. The Cazes family, as well as owning Lynch Bages, own Chateau les Ormes de Pez in Saint Estephe and the lovely and very affordable Château Villa Bel Air further afield in Graves.

Another Médoc family the Quiés are spread over several left bank appellations. Famous for their 2nd growth in Margaux Rauzan Gassies, they own 5th growth Croizet Bages in Pauillac and Bel Orme in Haut Medoc, another Cru Bourgeois.

It’s not a uniquely left bank phenomenon either. Some brave souls dared to cross over to the dark side. Leoville Las Cazes owns Chateau Nenin in Pomerol, Château Lafite has Chateau L’Evangile in Pomerol and Chateau Rieussec in Sauternes as do Pichon Baron owners Axa Millesimes again with properties in both Sauternes: Chateau Suduiraut and in Pomerol: Chateau Petit Villages.

Right bank properties also have jokers up their sleeves, investing in lesser-known estates and surrounding appellations such as the Saint Emilion Satellites or the Côtes appellations.

The von Nieppergs, owners of Chateau Canon la Gaffeliere in Saint Emilion, also own Clos de l’Oratoire and Chateau Peyraud in the same appellation and have invested both in the Côtes de Castillon buying Chateau d’Aiguilhe where a modern wine cellar makes this one of the leading lights of the appellation. Angelus owners, the de Bouards, have used their Lalande de Pomerol property, La Fleur de Bouard as a testing ground for a lot of experimental wine making that they have since harnessed at Angelus, so the advantages work both ways. They have more freedom to experiment in smaller properties rather than in their flagship vineyards where is it perhaps more risky to test out new techniques.

The innovative cellars Chateau La Fleur de Bouard

The innovative cellars Chateau La Fleur de Bouard

Francois Despagne, owner wine-maker of the classified growth Chateau Grand Corbin Despagne in Saint Emilion is also using his expertise making Chateau le Chemin in Pomerol and Chateau Ampelia in the Côtes de Castillon. Look out for Chateau la Maison Blanche, owned and made by his brother Nicolas just across the boundary of Saint Emilion in Montagne Saint Emilion; some of the purest expression of terroir in organic and biodynamic production.

Somes of the wines from the Francois Despagne stable

Somes of the wines from the Francois Despagne stable

These are just a few of many examples well worth looking out for, other owners that are spread across several appellations include the Cathiards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte who have recently invested in Pomerol and Sauternes and Bernard Magrez who has a finger in many Bordeaux appellations.

I’ll stop now before this sounds too much like a shopping list, as these are just a few of many examples well worth looking out for and I haven’t even mentioned investments made in other French wine regions or abroad – another blog post perhaps?

These investments in lesser known estates and appellations by leading wineries brings not just money but know-how and experience, raising the bar of excellence and increasing their reach to the wine enthusiast. If you thought second wines were worth looking for, take it to the next level; it’s worth getting off the beaten track a little and looking behind those top labels to see what other treasures they are hiding.






Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day with Bordeaux.

The Garonne river flowing through the city of Bordeaux may not be dyed green on the 17th March but Bordeaux does have strong historical and contemporary links to the Emerald Isle.

It is yet another example of the openness of Bordeaux to foreign influence thanks to the importance of the port, the largest in France in the 17th century. This was the beginning of a huge Irish influence the remains of which can still be clearly seen today. Many Irish ‘Jacobites’ fled their native land, escaping religious persecution after the Battle of Kinsale, when the Catholic King James II lost to the Protestant King William of Orange.

The term ‘Wild Geese’ was coined to define the flight of these emigrant families in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Many ended up in Bordeaux, as they already had strong ties with the region, being enthusiastic importers of ‘Claret’. Others ended up in the Loire and Cognac, where names such as Hennessy became part of the local landscape. These new arrivals quickly became important players in the wine business, exporting wine and importing Irish meat and dairy.

Their presence on the Quai des Chartrons, the merchant area on the banks of the Garonne, was even mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1770 when he listed names that are still there today such as Barton, Johnston, and Lawton.

Ireland became established as a leading Market for Bordeaux. Records from 1739 show that England imported 1,000 tons of claret, Scotland 2,500 and Ireland a massive 4,000. Ted Murphy, author of The Kingdom of Wine: a Celebration of Ireland’s Winegeese, quotes ‘‘claret was the Guinness of its day.”

The Wine Geese

The Wine Geese

Their influence continues in the Château names that still ring with an Irish accent include 
Château Clarke, Château Phelan-Segur, Château Boyd Cantenac, Château MacCarthy (now the second wine of Haut-Marbuzet), Château Dillon, Château Langoa and Léoville-Barton (still today owned by the Barton family), Château Kirwan, Château Lynch Bages, etc.

Frank Phélan, Chateau Phélan Segur's second wine, is named after the estate's Irish founder.

Frank Phélan, Chateau Phélan Segur’s second wine, is named after the estate’s Irish founder.

Other Châteaux may not sound very Irish but have strong Irish connections in their past include such leading lights as Château Margaux, Château Yquem, Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Lalande, Château Pape-Clément and Château Haut-Brion.

Chateau Langoa Barton

Chateau Langoa Barton

So you have plenty of choice of Bordeaux with which to raise a glass to Saint Patrick on the 17th.