Traveling 54 Years in One Evening with Two Wines

Posted on: July 8th, 2019 by

A duo of bottles serving as bookends to a media event sponsored by Barton & Guestier  practically told the story of French wine, how the industry has developed, and how tastes have evolved. Yep, over five decades of change distilled (fermented, rather) into one short, yet memorable, evening.

Let’s start from the end, which is the beginning.

The final wine served was a 1964 Château Léoville Barton, out of magnum (!) no less. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of old wines. A lot of times they are just…dead. And you’re around a bunch of fawning wine people pretending that it’s profound when it’s bad vinegar. Just admit it’s bunk and open up a cold beer, ok? (End rant.)

But sometimes, a well-aged wine defies logic, history, and the march of time. This Léoville Barton was one of those bottles.

A magnum of 1964 Léoville Barton wine.

Here’s my hyperbolic take while drinking my slight, yet profound, pour:

Forest floor. Like you’re on a quiet hike in an old-growth forest at dawn. The sun pokes through and casts church-like rays of light both misty and mystical.

The ground is soft, so you lay down and it embraces you like a cool hug. You have a ripe, red berry in your pocket and you pop it in your mouth and let it dissolve. 

A bird chirps and a friendly squirrel climes onto your shoe like you’re Snow White.

Barton & Guestier can trace its beginnings back to 1725, when Thomas Barton left Ireland to try his hand in the wine business in Bordeaux. Later on, Daniel Guestier joined up with Thomas’ grandson, Hugh. This association became formalized in 1802 with the creation of  Barton-Guestier Wine Merchants. The acquisition of the vineyards that would become Leoville Barton happened two decades later. (The property is still in the hands of the Barton family today.)

Now let’s fast-forward two hundred years. 

Barton & Guestier: Back to the Future

Barton Guestier Rosé has a uniquely-shaped bottle.Our welcome wine was the 2018 Côtes de Provence Rosé, a wine so pale I asked if it was a white wine. The thing that struck me the most about this wine, besides it’s quaffable nature, was the bottle shape.

Its elongated neck and curved base are totally unique. It’s like a teardrop-shaped wine amulet, which shouldn’t be surprising once you find out the bottle was inspired by the pink Tourmaline stone. Which, if you are into crystals, is a stone purportedly all about “love and spirituality, encouraging compassion and gentleness during periods of growth and changes as humanity works toward enlightenment.” That’s above and beyond what this wine (or any wine/beverage) delivers, but I will say that a glass of it (and the sight of the bottle) does encourage a pacific nature, delivered from the other side of the Atlantic.

I’m also a big fan of the closure, the glass Vinlok. It’s also pink, which is a nice touch. More elegant than a screw cap, it’s also nice because you can lay an open bottle on its side in your fridge. I don’t see why more producers of drink-now wines aren’t using it; perhaps it’s a cost issue.

Barton & Guestier: Past and Present, Side-by-Side

Looking back my photos, I was most struck by seeing the 2018 rosé next to the 1964 Bordeaux. I’m guessing back then when you thought of French (still) wine, BDX was king/queen/one to rule them all. And I’m sure that opinion, particularly among wine connoisseurs/collectors held true for decades after that.

But in 2019, I bet if you asked most wine drinkers what they think of when they think of French wine, it’s rosé from Provence. The extent to which it has taken over the seasonal wine market is astonishing. Of course, this overshadows Bordeaux, a region make a TON of fantastic, well-priced whites and rosé for summer drinking. (I am particularly fond of Bordeaux Clairet, a deeper, richer style of rosé perfect for those who rarely stray from red.)

It seemed appropriate that the tasting was held at Dear Irving, a new outpost of the stylish cocktail bar at the top of the Aliz hotel. As I gazed out the window, there was an unmissable landmark of a bygone era. The old McGraw-Hill building, an Art Deco gem.

The Art Deco McGraw-Hill Building, as seen from the Aliz Hotel.

Will there ever be another building like it? How long will it last? What state is it in? The parallels to the 1964 Bordeaux were obvious.

How strange it was to view this solitary icon from a location embodying New York in 2019, drinking the most modern, the most “now” of wines.

Enjoy everything you can while it lasts.

Note: I wrote this post as part of a contest sponsored by B&G:

Share the love for B&G by publishing an article, blog post or social media feature for a chance to win a stay at Château Magnol, Barton & Guestier’s Food and Wine Academy. The winner will be selected on July 31, 2019 and will be announced on @bartonguestier_france social media channels. All entries will be judged by Barton & Guestier’s team for authenticity, creativity and exceptional work in capturing the essence of the brand.

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