The Irish connection to an illustrious wine family in Bordeaux

Lilian Sartorius Barton traces her Bordeaux roots back to 1725, when her family moved there from Ireland

Lilian Sartorius Barton is the ninth generation of the Barton family to live and work in Bordeaux. The family relocated there in 1725, but have always maintained a close connection with Ireland. Originally proprietors of the négociant house of Barton & Guestier, today the family own Château Léoville Barton and Château Langoa Barton, two of the finest properties in Saint-Julien, one of the leading communes in the Médoc.

These were purchased by Hugh Barton in the early 19th century, and have the longest ownership by the same family of any of the leading properties in Bordeaux. A more recent acquisition is Château Mauvesin-Barton in Moulis.

Under the tenure of Sir Anthony Barton, the seventh generation of Barton to be born in Straffan House in Co Kildare, the wines from both Châteaux, as well as La Réserve de Léoville-Barton (the second wine of Léoville) gained a huge following in Ireland. Barton disliked the idea of wine as an investment and always offered his wines at very reasonable prices compared to those of his peers.

He also disdained the over-ripe, high alcohol wines that were fashionable with others, preferring wines with elegance and restraint. Both properties were classified as Grands Crus Classés in 1855. Lêoville is officially a second growth and Langoa a third growth, but these days both are of equal quality. The two chateaux are located on opposite sides of the same road.


Chateaux Léoville and Langoa Barton are made using a traditional Médoc blend of roughly 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 20 per cent merlot and 10 per cent cabernet franc. The wines have classic Saint-Julien flavours of blackcurrant, cassis, lead pencil, cedar and tobacco. They are made to last.

Sir Anthony died in 2022 at the age of 92. Lilian Sartorius Barton, her husband Michel and two children now run the family business. When I speak to Lilian, the 2023 harvest has just finished. She is reluctant to be drawn on the quality of the vintage. “We have been pretty busy as ever. I think it’s going to be good; the grapes are of good quality, but it will take a while to decipher it all. Generally speaking, we are very happy. It will be better than the last few years and we will have better volumes too.”

She is looking forward to her forthcoming trip to Ireland, where she will co-host a dinner in the K Club in Straffan House. “I always enjoy coming over. I haven’t been for ages. It’s always such good fun in Ireland. It is relaxed and very enjoyable every time. My father and his brother were both born in Straffan, and I am so happy that Lisa [O’Doherty, head sommelier at the K Club] and the new owner are keeping the connection going, and building a great wine cellar too,” she says.

We spent four years doing a lot to get the cellars in order. The vines will take a bit longer, pulling some up and replanting, but we are very happy with the way things are going

—  Lilian Sartorius Barton on Mauvesin

“I have never slept at Straffan House before, so this will be a first. When I stayed with my grandparents in the glebe house I used to come up for a peep, so it will be nice to spend some more time there. My grandparents are buried in Straffan. In fact, I think my family built the church there. Certainly, I have many diverse relations buried there. My grandmother was a Lilian, hence my name.”

The Irish connection continued in 2015, when the Château joined with Irish distillers Midleton Distillery and wine and spirit merchants Mitchell & Son to create a Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish whiskey, finished in casks used to mature Château Léoville Barton.

The next generation of Bartons are already working in the family business. Daughter Mélanie, the first Barton to qualify as a winemaker, spent five years gaining work experience in various places around the world. She is in charge at Mauvesin, whose wine improves every year. “We spent four years doing a lot to get the cellars in order. The vines will take a bit longer, pulling some up and replanting,” Lilian says, “but we are very happy with the way things are going.” Damien, the youngest child, has a business and commercial schooling as well as two years studying viticulture. He is working hard on sustainability and now looks after Langoa – “we separated the two properties”.

Lilian Barton and K Club head sommelier Lisa O’Doherty will co-host a dinner on November 10th in the K Club. Following a Champagne reception in the Garden Room guests will enjoy a five-course gala dinner in The Barton restaurant, with each dish matched with various wines from Château Léoville Barton. See