It takes a certain level of passionate storytelling, poetic eloquence, amazing visualisation, empathy, enthusiasm, and technical skill to translate wine from simple abstract words to a multi-sensory experience for a reader or listener. People who possess these abilities are few and far in between.
Alexander Van Beek, General Manager of the renowned Bordeaux châteaux Château Giscours and Château du Tertre, is one such person.
Backtrack: When I was invited to lunch in their château (in hindsight, I can now legitimately tell my future grandchildren that once upon a time, I had an intimate lunch in a French castle), I thought that I would be meeting somebody stuffy.
Instead (and fortunately), I met an incredibly effervescent Dutch man whose ability to describe his wines as “sexy”, “glossy”, or capable to take on human-like characteristics brought me to a whole new dimension in analyzing wine.
It was interesting to trace how the Dutch came to Bordeaux, particularly in Château Giscours. The property traces is roots all the way back to the 14th century, when it was initially used as a defence tower. However, it only became a proper wine estate in 1552, after the acquisition of “maison noble de Guyscoutz” by Pierre de Lhomme, who specialized in cloth. His successors, the wealthy families of Promis, Pescatore, and Cruse, added to the castle’s finery. Eugène Bülher then landscaped the castle, and the famous Ferme Suzanne (a magnificent structure that greets guests with a majestic opulence) was added. In 1855, Château Giscours was awarded the Troisiéme Cru (Third Growth) classification. The château was further transformed into a neoclassical palace, worthy of having received Empress Eugénie, and Oscar II, King of Sweden and Norway, in 1899.
In 1995, a Dutch businessman, Éric Albada Jelgersma, bought Château Giscours. He then acquired the one thousand year old Cinquième Cru (Fifth Growth) estate, Château du Tertre. Château du Tertre is famous for having vineyards at the highest point of elevation in the Margaux region, and boasts of having French noblemen, industrialists, and bankers (such as Thomas de Montaigne, Pierre Mitchell, and the Koenigswarters) as its past owners.
Presently, Jelgersma has added several touches of innovation to both estates, such as several restructuring projects in the vineyards and properties, as well as making experimental breakthroughs with white wine.
His decision to have Van Beek on board is equally brilliant. After I was toured around the estate, Van Beek personally curated the tasting of the 2011 and 2015 vintages of both estates.
After a splendid showcase of just some of the estates’ wines, I was treated to a wonderful lunch with a bit of a surprise: The serveuse and the chef were both from the Philippines. As Van Beek explained, he truly loved working with their serveuse for her innate warmth and hospitality.
The lunch she served included scallops with morel sauce, lamb cutlet with fresh vegetables, cheese, and red fruits zabaglione. The wines included the refreshing Tertre Blanc 2015, a wine from their Tuscan wine label Caiarossa 2010, the grounded and fragrant Château du Tertre 2006, and the divine Château Giscours 2001.
Next time on our Bordeaux adventures: The regally ethereal wines of Château Haut-Bailly.
Merci Beaucoup to Mr. Alex Van Beek, Ms. Gaëlle Breton, and the wonderful Filipino crew of Château Giscours and Château du Tertre
Wines from both châteaus are available in Wine Story branches