Anthony Barton left us on 19 January, 300 years after Thomas Barton arrived in France in 1722.
Legends are due their milestones.
I was driving in the direction of Champagne – after visiting Domaine d’Eugenie and Clos de Tart in Vosne-Romanee and Morey-Saint-Denis respectively – when, at a petrol station, my phone lit up with messages informing of Anthony’s passing.
Sadness (even though I had known Anthony was not well) was mixed with joy because so many people around the wine world affirmed their love and respect for the man.
My heart immediately went out to his loved ones: wife Eva, daughter Lilian, son-in-law Michel, grandchildren Melanie and Damien, and all his loyal and beloved staff including Magali. It is always very telling to judge a person by how he or she treats others and how those others regard them in return.
The Barton and Barton Sartorius Families fill us with admiration.
But, there’s only so much we can do with admiration if the people who inspire that quality do not also make us smile, laugh and long to see them again.
I may not be able to attain the third wish anymore but I had always smiled and laughed in the company of Anthony Barton. And continue to do so when I think of him.
The grape man was articulate, witty, always spoke his mind, humorous, even mischievous.
Just like another mutual friend, Jean “Johnny” Hugel (1924 – 2009).
Chateau Leoville Barton 1982 (if my memory is right) was served on the occasion of Johnny’s 80th Birthday at Le Gavroche, London, in 2004.
I was not on the main table but sat, instead, next to Michael Broadbent.
I told Johnny and Anthony later I had unlimited “Broadbent access” that afternoon.
Anthony Barton held strong views about many things other than wine. He did so because he wanted the world we live in to be a better place. He cared. And did so with deeds.
Leoville and Langoa Barton have always been priced fairly. Many negociants and merchants shake their heads in disbelief because they could command – and get – higher numbers. Anthony Barton just wasn’t into that kind of game. His loyalty was to you and me, the wine lover.
For Anthony Barton, the reward for loyalty was to return it.
A secret many may not know about the man is that Anthony was a very accomplished writer.
The last photo I took of him was after lunch at Langoa on 13 September 2017. Planned over the course of about a month before I left Singapore, I had particularly looked forward to it.
I have reproduced the photo several times as it captures Anthony with Eva, Lilian and Melanie (grandson Damien was not in Saint-Julien that day) together and remains an unforgettable day.
A month after that lunch, Anthony sent me copies of some of his past writing. I was so relieved he remained a winegrower because us journalists would had been overwhelmed by the competition if he had raised the pen instead of the wine glass.
Those articles are even more treasured now that Anthony Barton has left us. I shall re-read them over the years as I do my favourite authors, R K Narayan, Naguib Mahfoux, Balzac, Graham Greene …
Thank you Anthony for showing us what a life is capable of when we mark it with honesty, fairness, integrity, humility, humour and generosity.
P.S. I append below an article I wrote in the 2019 edition of 100 Top Chinese Restaurants of the World.