Famed French Bordeaux Château Finally Changes Hands After Legal Dispute

Wine

At Bordeaux’s Château Giscours, the Albada Jelgersma family has finally concluded a long-running, complicated dispute with the heirs of the former owner, who had retained considerable shares in the Margaux estate. Going forward, Giscours will be completely in the hands of the Dutch family.

Ownership of a Brand, But A Dispute Over Vineyards

When Dutch real-estate and food tycoon Eric Albada Jelgersma bought control of Château Giscours, a classified growth in Margaux, from Nicolas Tari in 1995, he didn’t buy the actual winery. He paid $31 million to acquire a 51 percent stake in the company that held a farming lease for Giscours’ vineyards and the right to sell its wines. That original deal gave him the right to use the land and make the wine—but it didn’t give him ownership of the buildings and most of the vineyards.

Following Tari’s death in 2001, legal battles ensued as Albada became entangled in disputes with Tari’s son and daughter. Albada Jelgersma’s company, Société d’Exploitation du Château Giscours SAS, controlled the brand and sales rights, but another company, GFA du Château Giscours, owned the buildings and vines.

One of the larger châteaus in Margaux, Giscours has shown dramatic improvement in the past decade, but has also been the site of legal fights. (Courtesy of Château Giscours)

Albada Jelgersma died in 2018 at the age of 79, and his children, Dennis, Derk and Valérie Albada Jelgersma, inherited the enterprise. General manager Alexander van Beek has been running Giscours since 1995, when he visited as a 24-year-old fresh out of business school, planning to just stay for a harvest internship. While Van Beek has been able to rebuild Giscours’ wine quality and business reputation, the divided ownership of the enterprise has always been a challenge.

At the end of 2023, Van Beek and the Albada Jelgersma siblings announced that they had succeeded in gaining control of the entire estate.

“The GFA du Château Giscours went into liquidation and the liquidators representing the Tari Family sold all their assets to the Société d’Exploitation du Château Giscours SAS,” said Van Beek to Wine Spectator. “It has always been the will of the Albada Jelgersma family to acquire all the lands of Giscours. This new chapter opens new development perspectives for the property. Giscours is one of the very few estates planted in a single stretch, at the heart of an unspoiled ecosystem.”

An Impressive Médoc Estate

That spectacular ecosystem includes 395 acres of vineyards—247 acres in the Margaux appellation and 148 acres in the Haut-Médoc appellation. There are also more than 494 acres of forest, meadows, lakes and a river. The winery makes three wines: La Sirène de Giscours and Château Giscours in the Margaux appellation and Haut-Médoc Giscours in the Haut-Médoc appellation.

For wine consumers, the deal likely means quality will continue to improve. Van Beek and his team often needed either legal approval or dramatic workarounds to make improvements at the estate.

The family also owns—and Van Beek manages—Caiarossa in Tuscany, where they have 271 acres of land. Asked if there are any further plans for acquisitions, Van Beek said, “No direct plans for the moment, but we are looking into different regions.”


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