Tag Archives: Saint Julien

Chateau Mauvesin Barton, the latest chapter in a family history.

The Barton name has been associated with the Medoc, and Saint Julien in particular, since 1821 when the Hugh Barton purchased Château Langoa. This was closely followed by the purchase of Château Leoville Barton in 1826 when the neighbouring Leoville estate was divided into 3 creating Chateau Leoville Barton, Château Leoville Poyferre and Château Leoville Las Cazes. All 3 properties were made second growths in the classification that came into place a few years later in 1855.

Arriving in 1725, Thomas, Hugh’s grandfather, was the first Barton to come to Bordeaux from his native Ireland. He was soon seduced by the wine industry making his fortune and becoming known as French Tom, creating the négociant House Barton et Guestier. The current owner, Anthony Barton, came to France in 1951 to work at Barton and Guestier and took over the family estate from his uncle in 1983 making the beautiful château his home in 1986. Lilian Barton Sartorius has worked with her father, Anthony, since 1978 first in their merchant business “Les Vins Fins Anthony Barton,” and she now runs the two properties and the negociant company with him.

Saint Julien is a small appellation for the Médoc representing only 5% of the surface area. Often considered to be the most homogenous of all the Medoc appellations due to its size with only 24 producers of which 11 are classified growths covering 87% of the appellation. Perched on two gravel outcrops, Leoville to the north and Beychevelle to the South, this narrow band of Garonnaise gravel is the perfect terroir for Cabernet Sauvignon which represents 63% of the appellation, giving wines that marry the elegance of Margaux with the power of Pauillac.

There are now 51ha of vineyards at Château Léoville-Barton and around 17ha at Langoa Barton, lying next to each other, close to the Gironde, with a typical St Julien terroir of gravelly soils over deeper clay. The Cabernet-dominated wines of both properties are made in the cellars of Langoa built alongside the Chateau in 1757.

The newly renovated Chateau Mauvesin Barton

The newly renovated Chateau Mauvesin Barton

As far as appellations go, the Bartons obviously think small is beautiful as Lilian and her husband Michel Sartorius invested in Moulis in 2011 buying Chateau Mauvesin Barton. Moulis, located to the west of the Médoc, halfway between Margaux and Saint Julien, is even smaller than Saint Julien (4% of the Medoc). There are no classified growths in this appellation but Cru Bourgeois account for more than 2/3 of production of these fleshy, delicate wines. The cooler soils of mainly Pyrenean gravel, with a clay-limestone sub-soil, explain the predominance of the Merlot variety, well suited to this type of soil. The Barton’s expertise in Cabernet Sauvignon will not be lost here as on the 51 hectares of vines, (42 in Moulis appellation and 9 in Haut Médoc appellation) the soil is partly clay and limestone, perfect for Merlot, and a partly fine gravel and sand allowing for an exceptional maturity of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The new vat cellar

The new vat cellar

Château Mauvesin is also an historic property, Marquis Lodoïs Leblanc built the current chateau in 1853, but vines and a chateau have been recorded here since 1457. Since the purchase, the family have planted 6 hectares of vines and uprooted one older plot. They have also completely renovated the cellar and winery; the old vat room has been restored into a spacious cellar allowing for plot by plot vinification and a new tasting room, decorated in stone and oak has a large window overlooking the barrel cellar.

The fee of the future, Melanie Barton Sartorius

The face of the future, Melanie Barton Sartorius

Historical roots are important but the Bartons are looking to the future; Lilian and Michel’s daughter Melanie is a qualified oenologist, the first in the Barton Family! She joined the company in 2013 and with her brother Damien are the eighth generation of the Barton family to put their mark on the Medoc with Chateau Mauvesin Barton.

The new Chateau Mauvesin Barton labels

The new Chateau Mauvesin Barton labels



















Dining in and out of town.

Saint Julien is a prestigious appellation but it is one of the smallest in the Medoc and the village itself is tiny. It already has a lovely restaurant, appropriately called Le Saint Julien, however, should you want a less formal dining experience there is now a new roadside restaurant called Chez Mémé. It has been open for about a year now, and is the lunch spot for all the local winemakers. It is run by Didier and Nadege, both of who are well known having worked in wine and hospitality in Bordeaux for years. Their warm welcome and the excellent value for money (3 course daily menu for €15) explain the success they now enjoy. As they are open from nine to five, Monday to Thursday and nine to four as well as the evening on Friday and Saturday, you can even call in for breakfast or a coffee between tastings. Be warned it’s best to book ahead.

Chez Mémé

Chez Mémé

On an altogether bigger scale, on the right bank, Chateau La Dominique, Grand Cru of Saint Emilion, has just opened a roof-top restaurant ‘La Terrasse Rouge’ overlooking the vines of the chateau and neighbouring Pomerol. Run by the team from popular Brasserie Bordelaise in Bordeaux you can see them at work in the open kitchen and bar. The atmosphere is very much a brasserie and the food is simple, generous and classic french. They too are open as of 9.30 for a vigneron breakfast of cold cuts and fresh bread – the perfect way to set you up for a morning of tasting. The large terrace is built over the impressive new barrel and fermentation cellars of the chateau and is decorated with thousands of red glass pebbles, designed to look like the top of a vat in fermentation.

La Terrasse Rouge

La Terrasse Rouge – don’t fall in!

When you are in town try  Garopapilles the brand new wine shop and restaurant just opened by chef Tanguy Laviale. Tanguy knows all about wine and about food; he was previously the private chef at classified growth Chateau Haut Bailly in Pessac Leognan. It’s a great concept; open at lunchtime Tuesday through Friday, and evenings on Thursday and Friday. At other times they make the small (20 covers) restaurant  available for small private groups for hands on food and wine tasting events, either with his sommelier who selects the wines for the shop or bring your own wines (it’s already a favorite haunt of the wine trade).  You walk through the wine shop into the restaurant with its open kitchen and small private terrace (where they grow their own herbs too).

Seasonal fare from Tanguy Laviale

Seasonal fare from Tanguy Laviale

The lunchtime menu of the day is created from whatever appeals to Tanguy in the market that morning. His cuisine is a wonderful expression of classic local ingredients with his own personal twist, accompanied by friendly service and a great wine selection, not just from Bordeaux. Evenings offer a 5-course menu. Check on line or follow on Facebook for more information about his themed tasting evenings.









2011 With tender loving care

The last days of the red 2011 harvest are finally here with the Cabernets coming into the cellars, this fabulous Indian summer we are experiencing with afternoon temperatures up to an unseasonal 30° has allowed winemakers to wait and wait for perfect ripeness on the cabs. A welcome respite after a rather chaotic year – as far as the climate is concerned.

The hot and dry spring resulted in an early flowering with right from the get go producers predicting a 2 or 3 week advance on the average and fears for a drought. However July was cooler and wetter, not great for tourists – but a lifesaver for the grapes as it slowed things down. The cooler nights in August helped with maintaining acidity and complexity.

However the weird climate did take its toll. Some vines were affected by the early spring drought, which held back development and created problems with ‘vascular connections’ that may not have reformed, preventing some the berries developing fully when the weather turned cooler and damper in July.

To add insult to injury there was periodic hail storms throughout the year, April hail hit Sauternes, Margaux was hit in June, especially on the Rauzan plateau and the hail hot again, dramatically, on the 1st September the around us here in the Entre deux Mers and violently in Saint Estephe causing considerable damage on the plateau around Cos d’Estournel

Consequently 2011 is turning out to be quite a challenging year for both vine growers the wine makers, especially after 08/09/10 trilogy where some (modest?) winemakers claimed the wine made itself!

Canopy management to control lack of water and then to allow air to circulate preventing botrytis as the more humid weather arrived was extremely important.

In recent years many properties have been introducing sophisticated machines to help the selection process and with a year like this where ripe, under ripe, dry and even hail bruised grapes can be seen on the same bunch they will really get their money’s worth.
Chateau Lagrange, the largest classified growth of Saint Julien has installed an Optical Scanner that can select grapes from the conveyor at a record speed of 72 kms per hour 2.5m/second! Which results in 9 tonnes per hour being sorted instead of 3 by hand – and a lot less fatigue. Mattieu Bordes, the technical director, has another new toy for this vintage too, an oscillating vertical destemmer to ensure only the grapes make it into the selector.

Selected grapes fall from the optical selector at Château Gruaud Larose

Mattieu Bordes admires the new vertical destemmer

Château Figeac, first growth in Saint Emilion, was also using an optical selector this year, after a test in 2010, but at a purchase price as around 150 000 euros new decided to test it out by renting first, director Eric d’Aramon concluded that it is still early days for these machines and renting ensures it comes with a technician in case there are teething problems. These machines are also highly electronic and storing them unused for eleven–and-a-half months of the year in a damp cellar is not a risk he is prepared to take.

The berries are photographed by the stemmer at Château Phelan Segur to allow selection

It’s not only the top classified growths that have invested, Château Phelan Segur, who welcomed guests at their harvest table during the picking, also use the same technology as do many others. Some however have chosen the ‘trie baie’ system (The Vignobles André Lurton properties for example) using must with different densities to select quality grapes, and yet others such as Château Grand Corbin Despagne an airflow system whereas others rely on a dedicated team in the field and in the cellars to separate the wheat from the chaff – rendezvous in April to taste the results of these different methods ‘en primeur’.

All that time saved allows for a longer lunch break – harvest lunch in front of the magnificent
Château Phelan Segur

Come join the harvest

The Bordeaux harvest is under way, the dry whites are in and the reds are starting with the more precocious merlot. It is possible to join in the fun of the harvest in Bordeaux, even if you’re not feeling up to all the backbreaking work. For several years ‘Les Medocaines’ a group of 4 women wine makers have organised harvest days at their properties; Château Paloumey and du Taillan in the Haut Medoc, Château La Tour de Bessan in Margaux and Château Loudenne in Médoc .
Just sign up at the Bordeaux tourist office for one of their scheduled days and you will be whisked away to pick and sort in the morning and, after joining the harvesters for lunch, it’s off to learning how to make and blend the wine in the afternoon.

Grape selection at Château Paloumey

If you are happier observing from a safe distance but still want the atmosphere, from the 10-12 September Château Gruaud Larose, classified growth of Saint Julien, is also offering the possibility to join in the fun with their Harvest workshop days. These include a tasting of the different grape varieties during a visit of the property, a harvest lunch alongside the pickers and a tasting of the fermenting must in the afternoon. Along with the lunch at wine, that’s a start to finish tasting experience.
Or you can just turn up for a harvest lunch along side the real workers. Chateau Troplong Mondot, first growth of Saint Emilion, offers a wonderful harvest menu in the dining room next to the cellars along with 4 different wines from the property, as does Château Phelan Segur in Saint Estephe. Squeezed between top classified growths Cos d’Estournel and Montrose this family vineyard has one of the post spectacular locations overlooking the Gironde Estuary.

If you can’t decide and want someone to organise all the details for you, Decanter Tours is offering personalised Harvest tours to suit your mood. Book now before it’s all over.

Roadside dining around Bordeaux

The D2 (the ‘route des Châteaux’) is possibly the most famous road in the Bordeaux region,driving up the D2 is like driving through a wine list. Passing one grand example of architecture after another, the road sweeps through the famous appellations of Médoc, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. And most of these have great roadside restaurants.

Travelling from south to north leaving Bordeaux:
Le Lion d’Or is as typical a local bistro as you can get. The ‘Patron’ is a fervent defender of local cuisine and a dedicated ‘chasseur,’ so game features plentifully on the menu in season. Throughout the rest of the year, local specialties include confit of duck, local asparagus and artichokes. Surprisingly, the wine list is petite. This is because the dining locals are winemakers with their own wine lockers that line the dining room. You can admire fabulous wines guarded by lock and key, which only the owners hold! To compensate, bring your own bottle but only if it is ‘rouge’. Should you want a glass of white or rosé, order it from the house list.

Heading north, continue to Saint Julien and stop at the eponymous restaurant. In the summer the terrace is delightful and in the evening the chef will stoke the grill with vine clippings to prepare the steaks and duck breasts. They also have the best dessert buffet in the region.

Just before arriving in Pauillac, take a break in Bages and on the left is the 2-star Michelin hotel and Restaurant Cordeillan Bages , plus a vineyard. The innovative chef Thierry Marx creates modern interpretations of local products and the experience is a mix of dining and entertainment. He is a staunch defender of the local culinary traditions and has been instrumental in preserving the local milk-fed lamb ‘l’agneau de Pauillac.’

For a more modern take, go back to Bordeaux on the only other main road in the Médoc, the D1. Still on the left bank but south of Bordeaux city in the Pessac Léognan appellation, pause amongst the classified growths in the village of Martillac at Le Pistou , a relaxed local bistro just opposite the church.

Carry on further south to the village of Sauternes where you can dine on the terrace of Le Saprien overlooking the vines and enjoy a menu carefully designed to match with the luscious sweet white wines of this appellation.


The view from the terrace of ‘Le Saprien’
over the vines of Château Guiraud

On the right bank over towards Saint Emilion, take the ND936 from Bordeaux towards Bergerac and turn left towards Saint Germain de Puch where you can have lunch or dinner at l’Atmosphère , which offers everything from pizza to high-end local specialties such as artichoke and foie gras salad.

Once in Saint Emilion there is only one street to drive through. Half way up Rue Guadet, stop on the left at Chai Pascal for a light lunch with an interesting selection of wines by the glass.

Further up the same street on the right is Essentielle , owned by Jean-Luc Thunevin. This wine bar offers some of the most hard to find wines of the region by the glass accompanied by artisan cheeses and ‘charcuterie’.

New Tasting Room at Château Lagrange

Members of Bordeaux wine tourism industry were recently invited to the inauguration of Château Lagrange’s new tasting room.
This classified growth of Saint Julien in the heart of the Medoc was purchased by Suntory in 1983. It is one of the increasing number of top classified growths in Bordeaux opening their doors to the public by appointment. Château Lagrange is a perfect example of how the closed door policy of top Bordeaux properties is changing. The advent of a tasting room now allows the PR Director Charlotte Denjean to organize visits and tastings including older vintages.
Suntory have increased plantings from 57 to 115 ha becoming one of the largest properties in the Medoc in a single vineyard. Lagrange is also innovative in its wine making techniques; investing in new smaller (220hl) stainless steel tanks, 56 vats allow plot by plot fermentation. Fermentation which is also innovative using the co inoculation techniques allowing alcoholic and malolactic fermentation simultaneously – saving on energy needed to heat the tanks – very conscious of their carbon footprint !
The new tasting room was christened with one of the rare white wines to be produced in the Medoc – Les Arums de Lagrange 07. Lunch in the larger reception room was served with lined tasting during lunch with two vintages of the second wine Les Fiefs de Lagrange 2000 and 2003 and the ‘Grand Vin’ Château Lagrange 1995 and 1988.
Need to know more about Château Lagrange: www.chateau-lagrange.com

The photo shows from left to right Valérie Cholet Hostess and guide at the property, Charlotte Denjean Public Relations Manager and Catherine Di Costanzo PR consultant for the Château.