Barton and Guestier are major players in the French wine scene, with a fascinating heritage going all the way back to 1725. Then the company’s founder, 30 year old Thomas Barton (left), departed his native Ireland and emigrated to Bordeaux.

“As a true adventurer he founded his wine
-shipping company in 1725. Very quickly, his efforts brought an unbelievable level of prosperity and by 1747, Thomas Barton was considered Bordeaux’s number one shipper and his loyal clients nicknamed him “French Tom”.

He was the first shipper to have his own wine estates. In 1802 Hugh Barton, his grandson and successor, teamed up with Daniel Guestier, a French trader, to create Barton & Guestier which is today the oldest wine merchant established in Bordeaux.

For some reason, wine writers almost always use italics when writing the word négociant (translated as merchant). The best and shortest definition I found of the négociant is in the current Michelin Green Guide to the Wine Regions of France: “Nowadays, wine traders buy wine from independent producers, which they bottle when they judge the time is right. Some even produce their own wines.”

The B&G website offers this info: “With almost three centuries of experience in the wine business, Barton & Guestier is the 1st French brand name, known to millions of consumers worldwide.
The brand’s expertise guarantees regular quality, vintage after vintage, and reassures consumers in increasingly complicated markets. Thanks to its loyal distributors, Barton & Guestier is present in 130 countries on 5 continents.

The Barton & Guestier range represents the wonderful diversity of French wines from the main winegrowing regions: Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhône Valley, Languedoc, Gascony and Corsica.”

Some top wine writers seem to be in two minds when talking about négociants, maybe that is why they use the italics. Take Oz Clarke in a  recent book: “ there are a number of excellent négociants....It is no longer possible to say that one is always better than the other, but I’d still favour the grower.”

I don't know if Oz includes B & G, nowadays part of the Diageo group, in his excellent list. I have sampled some of their products recently and found them very good indeed.

Thomas Barton Réserve Graves Blanc, Grape varieties – Sémillon (55%), Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, 12.5% ABV. Colour was a bright pale honey with a tropical fruity nose. Quite tarty on the palate but with a good balance and a really long classy finish. This has been aged on lees for 3 months and this adds to the elegant smoothness. ****
Food matches, by B&G: Sea bass in a lobster coulis, salmon gratin, sole and turbot
Serve well-chilled at 10-12°C.

B&G Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne, 100% Sauvignon, 2009, 12.5% ABV.
The fresh clean nose had aromatic pineapple hints while the colour was a quite pale straw. On the palate it was fresh and crisp with citrus and grapefruit notes that linger in a concentrated finish. ***
Food matches, by B&G: Seafood, grilled fish, goat cheese, salads and pasta dishes
Serve well-chilled 10-12°C; also ideal as an aperitif.

Mary Dowey is one wine writer who has no problem with this négociant. At an autumn wine tasting in the Cornstore, the evening started with a Barton and Gustier sparkling wine while the Thomas Barton Reserve Sauternes 2005 was presented with the dessert.

As you'd expect the Sauternes was very intense and rich and lingered delightfully in the mouth.  Commenting on it, Mary said that considering that the Chateau Y’Quem Sauternes from the same year costs around €200 for the half-bottle, the Barton is another outstanding example “of their affordable range”. It costs about €20.00. If you don't finish the bottle in the one night, “it will keep in the fridge for weeks!”

From my experiences over the past few months, if I see B & G, or Barton and Guestier or Thomas Barton on a bottle, I’ll certainly be giving it a second look.

Addition: See American angle on B&G, via  : 

Aged in both French & American barrels, try out B&G Gold Label from the oldest wine merchant in Bordeaux!