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Taste & Sip

Barton & Guestier: A Love Story Starring Wine

2018 Côtes de Provence Rosé is an affair to remember.

I have adored many French wines in my past–but that was before Barton & Guestier. I have now found my true love, and look forward to a long and mutually satisfying romance.

“Where do I begin?” is the theme song for the 1970 blockbuster film, “Love Story,” starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal. I will start the story of my love affair at the recent Barton & Guestier Chicago Launch, an introduction to both the 300-year history of the esteemed vintner and also the debut of its glamorous 2018 Côtes de Provence Rosé. Our gracious host for the event was Philippe Marion, sales and marketing director at Barton & Guestier.

Since 1725, Barton & Guestier has been purveying premium wines. The company survived the French and American revolutions, and two world wars, drawing a worldwide following along the way. Among the aficionados were President Thomas Jefferson and author Washington Irving. Headquartered in Bordeaux, the company produces wines under all major French appellations as well as estate wines and reserve varietals. In 2018, 13 million bottles were shared by 130 countries.

Four bottles of wine on a counter: red, white, red, white.
Some of the Barton & Guestier wines that were introduced at the Chicago Launch.

At the Chicago Launch, Marion guided us through the sampling of a half dozen wines, each paired with culinary creations that amplified the flavors of both. 

The heartthrob of the night was the rosé–elegant and elevated. We should call it by the rightful “Tourmaline,” named after the pink semi-precious gemstone. The taste plays clear notes of ripe red berries and white flowers without being either sweet or tart. It’s a blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah grapes grown in the Mediterranean climate of strong winds and high temperatures.

Photo by Barton & Guestier

Many people mistakenly believe rosé wine is made from a blend of white and red grapes, but this is not so. Grenache, cinsault and syrah are red grapes. 

“Each variety has a different type of aroma, color, tannin and acidity level,” Marion said. “Syrah, for example, will have a lot of spiciness, but not a lot of color. The trend is to have a very pale rosé, so we limit the amount of syrah to 20 percent.”

To control the amount of color from a red grape, contact with the skin is avoided during pressing because that’s where the color is–not in the juice, he said.

“Rosé is probably the most versatile wine that exists,” Marion said. “It is perfect for very spicy foods, and it is also enjoyable with no food.”

Proving his point, when we first arrived, we were given a welcoming goblet of 2018 Côtes de Provence Rosé. The ceviche and spring rolls with sweet chili sauce didn’t arrive until a few minutes afterward. The Tourmaline remained seductive and delicate either way. May I have another glass, s’il vous plâit? 

Special recognition must be given to the 2018 Côtes de Provence Rosé bottle, which resembles a fine piece of jewelry. Some of you know I collect vintage perfume bottles, so I always have my eye out for a remarkable piece of glass. 

Each Barton & Guestier has its own bottle and label.

The reusable, highly collectible flask is a sleek, elongated almond shape with a pink stopper and the B & G logo in relief at the neck. The punt is molded with a honeycomb design, reminiscent of a jeweler’s cuts designed to directs rays of light upward. The understated satin label–printed in raspberry red, rose gold and slate–allows the gorgeous pale pink wine to speak for itself. She’s the tall, svelte beauty you want to be your best friend.

But Marion wanted us to know much more about Barton & Guestier and its wines. The 2017 Sancerre was accompanied by mushroom toasts with goat cheese. The 2017 Saint-Emilion came with bacon-wrapped dates and chicken satay.

The second runner-up for the night, after the Tourmaline, was a 1955 Château Léoville Barton from 1955. That’s 1955! I tried to take a photo of the label, but it was too worn to read. This wine, a blend of five grapes including cabernet sauvignon and merlot, was robust and invigorating. It was lovingly paired with lamb lollipops.

Philippe Marion pours a rare 1955 Chateau Leoville Barton wine.

There is so much more to learn. That’s why Barton & Guestier established its prestigious Food and Wine Academy at company headquarters Château Magnol, an 18th Century estate. Under the direction of acclaimed Chef Frédéric Prouvoyeur, guests partake in food and wine pairings, cooking classes and local excursions in an immersive educational program while staying in luxurious accommodations. 

“If you do not understand how to blend food and wine, it is more difficult to understand French wines,” Marion said. 

To paraphrase a line from the “Love Story” movie, in the case of Barton & Guestier, love means never having to say goodbye. I end this post with something sweet–and a wish that we can meet again at the Barton & Guestier Food and Wine Academy at Château Magnol. Merci!

A plate of pink macarons imprinted with the letters B&G.
Our wine-pairing ended with luscious rose-infused macarons.

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