AMA Vertical Tasting
Château Giscours

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA


While I was gathering materials, I suddenly received a breaking news about Château Giscours: The Albada Jelgersma family has fully acquired all shares of Château Giscours, concluding nearly 40 years of co-governance with the Tari family.


Their story begun in 1995, when Nicolas Tari, then head of Château Giscours, sold 51% of the winery’s shares for 31 million Euros to Dutch real estate and food tycoon, Mr. Eric Albada Jelgersma. It was agreed that the Tari family would retain ownership of the winery buildings and vineyards, while the Albada Jelgersma family would own the Château Giscours brand, along with the operating and management. These two families could have complemented each other’s strengths, but following the death of Mr. Nicolas Tari, things began to lose control. Internal divisions within the Tari family led to the Albada Jelgersma family being dragged into a marathon of property disputes, with neither side willing to compromise.


However, with the announcement at the beginning of this article, this complicated history has finally come to an end, with Château Giscours officially becoming a winery with 100% Dutch heritage among the family of Grands Crus Classés en 1855. According to General Manager Alexander Van Beek, the three leaders of the Albada Jelgersma family (Dennis, Derk, and Valérie) will continue to largely invest in Château Giscours, promising more good news in the future.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA


After sharing this News, it’s time to come back to our regular topics about terroir and technique!

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

Location and Land of Château Giscours

Château Giscours is located in Labarde, in the southern part of the Margaux appellation. it is embraced by the Gironde River and forests, forming a triangle that appears on the map as a “Margaux exclave.” In Labarde, Château Giscours stands as a gaint, with nearly 300 hectares of land, including 86 hectares of vineyards in Margaux AOC and around 240 hectares of forest. If Château Giscours were in Burgundy, its area would surpass the entire Nuits-Saint-Georges AOC.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

Vineyard Composition and Soil Types

The vineyards of Château Giscours are composed of four parts, primarily gravel soil. Petit Poujeau and Grand Poujeau are situated to the left of the forest, encircling a natural pond; Cantelaude and Belair are on a slope to the right of the forest.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

Petit Poujeau and Grand Poujeau

These plots are elevated up to 21 meters, with a mix of large and small gravel (converging from both the Garonne and Dordogne) above, and water-retentive clay and limestone soil beneath. According to the winery, this soil warms up quickly, favoring the late-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bel Air

This plot is relatively lower in elevation, around 12 meters. The soil has smaller gravel and a higher proportion of sand. This plot’s surface temperature is cooler, requiring longtime sunlight for grapes to achieve optimal maturity. However, it performs well in dry, hot conditions.


Most proud for its old vines, combines the advantages of the three plots. In the soils’ map, it reveals a layer of clay sandwiched between gravel and sand. In wet vintages, it stores some water in its “mini-reservoirs,” ; in dry, particularly hot vintages, the clay is particularly beneficial, a critical feature against the climate change.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA


From its inception, Château Giscours has harbored a “fondness” for nature, from over 100 hectares of forested wetlands and large ponds to flocks of chickens, ducks, cattle, sheep, and fresh vegetables. Sometimes, Château Giscours feels more like a farm than just a winery.


General Manager Alexander told me that over 30 different animals, including some endangered species, can be found here. Each animal has its own space, contributing to a miniature organic ecosystem with the surrounding vineyards.


Régisseur général Jérôme POISSON explained that biodiversity brings many benefits to the vineyards, such as:


  • Forest birds consuming pests, reducing vineyard diseases;
  • Nearby forests acting as natural air conditioning, lowering temperatures during hot weather;
  • Large flocks of sheep acting as natural “weeders,” their droppings also enriching the soil with organic matter and promoting microbial activity.


There are many such examples, all aiming to enhance grapevine resilience, thereby reducing disease risk, akin to “concept” in traditional Chinese medicine.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

Historical Roots of Château Giscours’ Farm Genes

Château Giscours’s “farm genes” date back to the late 19th century. In 1877, Edouard Cruse (who managed Château Giscours from 1875 to 1890) built a farm to commemorate his beloved wife Suzanne, named “La Ferme Suzanne” or “Suzanne’s Farm” in English. It not only provided for the agricultural needs but also living spaces for farmers and livestock. Over a century later, it remains one of Château Giscours’s most popular areas. I visited here during the harvest season, where hundreds of harvesters gathered for meals and celebrations, epitomizing the essence of Giscours: The Happiness.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA


In the memories of old Bordelais, Château Giscours has always represented “powerful” wine, like a Pauillac or even Saint-Estèphe, with its robust tannins, structured body, and aging potential.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

The 1980s

Throughout the 1980s, this style was particularly prominent. I had the chance to experience the majestic Château Giscours 1982 (in a magnum bottle), embodying a natural and leader-like charisma, somewhat reminiscent of “Du Yue Sheng” (though a vertical tasting of Château Giscours 1982 in 750ml bottles showed mature fruit but slightly less “vigor”). Vintages like 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1989 were classic displays of Château Giscours’s character, especially the 1989 vintage, which fully showcased its well-defined muscularity and imposing figure, the epitome of the entire 80s.


The 1990s

Strangely, Château Giscours seemed to “fizzle out” in the 1990s. The classic good vintages on the Left Bank, such as 1995 and 1996, felt “weak-kneed” during my tastings, lacking the robust structure and maturity in previous vintages . This situation started to change in 1998 when the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon returned to 55%, not only enhancing the structure but also refining the tannins’ texture. To me, 1998 was the only vintage in the 90s that truly conveyed the spirit of Château Giscours.


The 2000s

With comprehensive upgrades in viticulture and winemaking across Bordeaux, Château Giscours’s quality began to steadily improve. It stood out in excellent vintages like 2005, 2009, and 2015, and staged comebacks in less noticed vintages like 2001, 2006, and 2011. The 2006 vintage, in particular, could reach the level of a Super Second, offering great value for money.


By 2018, Château Giscours had performed a dramatic turnaround. Tasting the primeur, I noticed the disappearance of the muscular giant, replaced by a fairy-like grace.

  • The previously aromas of ripe berries and toasted bread, occasionally with a slight reductive smell, became extraordinarily fragrant;
  • The robust tannins became silky smooth, easily drinkable even when young;
  • The tight body became as transparent as a stream, each tasting refreshing and invigorating.
AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA


What caused this revolutionary change in Château Giscours? Let’s delve into that today.


Key Innovations in Winemaking

The remarkable transformation of Château Giscours can be attributed to several key innovations in their winemaking process:


  • Earlier Harvesting: The adoption of more scientific vineyard management has enabled the winery to harvest grapes earlier, preserving the floral and fruity aromas to the fullest extent possible.
  • Finer Grape Selection: Beyond improving the standards for berry selection, the winery has implemented “segmented harvesting” within each plot. As Jérôme explained, even within the same vineyard, there can be a large variation in terms of grape maturity. The solution is to mark grapes of different maturities in the same plot, and harvest them separately.
  • Refined Extraction: The technical team shifted the focus of extraction from the middle and later stages of fermentation to the beginning. At this stage, the juicy is with less alcohol and lower temperatures, hence only a small amount of tannins is extracted. It allows for for a better extraction of floral and fruity aromas. And after fermentation, instead of undergoing a long high-temperature post-fermentation, the winemaking team allowed the temperature naturally decrease, and adjusted the maceration frequency based on daily tastings.
  • Use of Inert Gas: During écoulage, inert gas (nitrogen) is introduced into the fermentation vats in order to keep the purity of the fruitiness.
AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

Innovative Fermentation Technique

In 2022, Château Giscours experimented with a unique fermentation method, which I believe is worth sharing. It’s likely that many wineries will explore this direction in the future, so those interested in winemaking technology should take note now:


Before fermentation begins, the temperature is lowered to below 10 degrees Celsius, and a yeast strain known as Torulaspora delbrueckii is introduced. This yeast can initiate fermentation at low temperatures and quickly inhibits the growth of other yeasts while producing a small amount of alcohol, achieving a “cleaning” effect. As the fermentation temperature gradually increases, regular commercial yeast is added. Without the interference of contaminants, alcoholic fermentation is completed quickly and stably, producing minimal volatile acidity, and adding just a small amount of sulfur ensures the wine’s stability. With lower sulfur content, the tannins appear softer, and the aromas become exceptionally fragrant, making it pleasantly drinkable even at a young age.


These strategies illustrate Château Giscours’ commitment to innovation and quality, heralding a new era of excellence for this esteemed winery.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA

I hope his article, rich with detailed information, provides you a clearer understanding of Château Giscours.


In conclusion, here’s a timeline of significant events related to Château Giscours for easy reference:


1552-1571: Pierre de Lhomme founded Château Giscours and extensively developed its vineyards.

1825-1847: Marc Promis, a merchant and industrialist, dedicated himself to restoring the former glory of Château Giscours.

1847-1875: The financier Jean-Pierre Pescatore and his heirs invested massively in Château Giscours, bringing its quality and reputation to its peak.

1855: Château Giscours was classified as a Third Growth in the 1855 Classification.

1875-1890: The Bordeaux bank family, Edouard Cruse, took over Château Giscours. They built a farm known as “La Ferme Suzanne” around the winery and commissioned the renowned landscape designer Eugène Bühler, also the designer of Parc Bordelais, to create the Parc de Giscours.

1952: The Tari family acquired Château Giscours post-WWII, expanding its size to 300 hectares.

1990: Château Giscours first used labels marked with “La Sirène” (meaning “The Mermaid” in French), which is the origin of Château Giscours’s Chinese name, “美人鱼.”

1992: The third label wine Haut-Médoc Giscours was created.

1995: Mr. Eric Albada Jelgersma bought 51% of Château Giscours’s shares from the Tari family. The Albada Jelgersma family owned the brand and operations of Château Giscours; the Tari family retained ownership of the vineyards and buildings.

2012: Château Giscours collaborated with the Conservatoire des Races d’Aquitaine to introduce Bordeaux cattle to the winery’s farm.

2018: Following the death of Mr. Eric Albada Jelgersma, Château Giscours was co-managed by his three children, Dennis, Derk, and Valérie.

2019: A year of innovation for Château Giscours

  • Collaboration with renowned winemaking consultant Thomas Duclos
  • Launch of Rosé x Giscours
  • Construction of a vegetable garden providing fresh, seasonal vegetables
  • Introduction of local Landes sheep, “brebis landaises”

2022: Château Giscours celebrated its 450th anniversary.

2023-2024: The Albada Jelgersma family fully acquired Château Giscours.


This timeline encapsulates the rich history and ongoing evolution of Château Giscours, highlighting its commitment to quality, innovation, and tradition.

AMA Vertical Tasting-Château Giscours - Alexandre MA