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The Proust Q&A: Anthony Barton

A longtime Bordeaux ambassador, 84-year-old Anthony Barton is a much-loved figure in the wine world known for his integrity, generosity of spirit, sense of humour and fairly-priced wines made at Château Léoville Barton in St Julien. Having lived in Bordeaux for 63 years, Irish-born Barton has owned and run Châteaux Léoville-Barton and its neighbour Langoa-Barton for 30 years.  The wines are characterised by their elegance and generosity of fruit.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Trying and succeeding to help people in difficulty, but I am far for from being a saint.

What is your greatest fear? 

Having to make a speech to an unreceptive audience. I was once faced with a gathering of over 200 over wine professionals. My first words were “It is my unfortunate lot to have to speak at the end of dinner when my ability to speak and your desire to listen are both diminished”. A loud voice declared “Hear! Hear! ” to which I asked “Hear Hear to which?” and the voice said without hesitation “Both”. My speech was clear but short.

Who do you most admire?

People who accept physical handicaps with courage and laughter. I had a friend, Barnie Wilson, who had polio as a child and spent his life in a wheelchair. He never complained and had the most wonderful sense of humour. He sadly died recently, but I have such happy memories of my time spent with him.

What is your greatest extravagance?

A nice, comfortable, expensive car.

What is your current state of mind? 

Resigned but reasonably happy at getting older.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

Beauty combined with modesty.

What words or phrases do you most overuse?

Let’s have another bottle”.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

Family of course, but I have had three dogs who have all given me love and peace.

When and where were you happiest?

My life at Château Léoville Barton has been great and I also remember my childhood in Ireland as being happy and well balanced.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

To be able to suffer fools gladly.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to play the piano.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

To have been married (to the same wife) for 58 years.

Where would you most like to live?

Although I love our annual winter holidays in sunny places, I’m really content here in Saint Julien.

What is your most treasured possession?

My house and garden.

What is your most marked characteristic?


Who are your favourite writers?

When I lived in Ireland, I enjoyed fox hunting and loved the tales by R.S.Surtees: Facey Romford’s Hounds and Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour. Nowadays I read popular authors like Robert Goddard, Ken Follett, Wilbur Smith and Peter Mayle. The latter has become a good friend and writes me some very entertaining letters. One of my favorite books is A Dog’s Life, not in fact written by Peter Mayle but by his dog – very entertaining. He is also a great lover of good wine.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Jack Reacher, Lee Child’s hero.

What is it that you most dislike?


What is your greatest regret? 

That I failed my exams at Cambridge and was sent down thereby ending my chance of a rowing blue. I don’t miss the BA degree.

What is your motto?

“Procrastination is the thief of time”, but I don’t respect it.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what three wines would you serve?

This is the one question I would rather not answer as I would hate to hurt feelings through omissions.

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