Chateau Giscours Margaux Bordeaux Wine

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Chateau Giscours MargauxThird Growth, Bordeaux wine producer profile, with wine tasting notes, wine ratings, a history of the property, information on wine making and terroir, along with wine tasting reviews. If you want to read about other important, Bordeaux Chateaux: Links to all Bordeaux Wine Producer Profiles

Chateau Giscours was first written about in 1330. At the time, it was listed on historical records as a fortified property. The first reference to Giscours for making Bordeaux wine dates back to 1552. Skipping ahead to slightly more modern times, before the start of the French Revolution, Chateau Giscours belonged to the Saint-Simon family. It was confiscated during the revolution and was resold in 1793 to two Americans from Boston, John Gray and Jonathan Davis. After that, a myriad of owners took over ownership and management of Chateau Giscours until it was bought in 1845 by Count the de Pescatore. Two years later, he hired a new manager for the Bordeaux wine property, Pierre Skawinski.

Interestingly, de Pescatore got lucky with Skawinski who later became one of the most respected agriculturalists of the time in Margaux as well as in Bordeaux. Some of Skawinski contributions include the invention of a type of plow in 1860 which still bears his name. He was one of the most important figures in the fight against mildew. It was thanks to Pierre Skawinski that Giscours earned the rank of Third Growth in the 1855 Classification. Pierre Skawinski managed the Margaux estate for 50 years. During his tenure, Pierre Skawniski came up with the idea that everything in the cellar should be moved by gravity. While most of the top Bordeaux chateau use gravity in their cellars today, this was a revolutionary development at the time. Pierre Skawinski remained with Chateau Giscours even after it changed hands and became the property of the Cruse family. The Cruse family sold Giscours in 1913. After the sale, Chateau Giscours went through a long, rough patch. By the time the vineyards were purchased by the Tari family, the vineyards were in such poor condition, less than 10 hectares of vines were bearing grapes.

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In 1954 Chateau Giscours was purchased by Nicolas Tari. Nicolas Tari learned about wine from his time as a wine maker in Algeria. Nicolas Tari helped rebuild and enlarge the property. In 1976, the then-owner of the chateau Tari, who was also the Secretary General of the Association des Grandes Crus Classes, was selected as one of 11 judges to take part in the historic “Judgment of Paris” wine competition when the results of a blind tasting had many California wines beating much more famous wines from Bordeaux. In 1995, Chateau Giscours was sold to Eric Albada Jelgersma.

The darkest moment for Chateau Giscours took place in 1998, when Chateau Giscours was accused of breaking the AOC laws of the Margaux appellation. They were accused of blending fruit from the Haut Medoc appellation with some of their vines to produce 16,000 cases of the 1995 La Sirene de Giscours. Further allegations stated the blend was doctored with milk, water and fruit acids. Admitting to the charges, former director Jean Michel Ferrandez said he knew his actions were illegal, but that “lots of people do it”. The accusations were brought as a result of a former employee. Since that time, things have turned around at the estate. A large part of that credit goes to the managing director, Alexander van Beek who is also in charge of their other Margaux estate, Chateau du Tertre.

More than making wine takes place at the Left Bank estate of Chateau Giscours. The Bordeaux Giscours Cricket Club in the Aquitaine Division of the French National League uses the fields at Giscours as their home base.

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Alexander van Beek arrived at Giscours in 1995. Alexander van Beek started out at the estate with plans to spend 2 weeks during the harvest. He was later promoted to the managing director. One of the first things that took place with the young Alexander van Beek at the helm was a continued replanting of their vineyards with the marked increase of Cabernet Sauvignon. The replanting was vast with more than 30,000 vines replanted in one year. This was needed because the vineyards had been allowed to lapse into poor conditions with some parcels missing close to 50% of their vines. The efforts began to pay off in a few short years.

Starting with the 2000 vintage, Alexander van Beek truly turned the fortunes of Chateau Giscours around. Each vintage after that shows signs of slow, but steady improvement in this Bordeaux wine. The estate’s 2009, with its rich textures and ripe cassis filled personality is the finest vintage Giscours I have ever tasted. Although, in all fairness, the 2010 Giscours could give it a run for the money and in time, might even be the better wine.

Chateau Giscours is a large estate with 165 hectares that are divided as follows: 102 hectares of vines are planted in the Margaux appellation. Those vines are used for the exclusive production of Chateau Giscours. The vineyard of Chateau Giscours is divided into 43 separate plots. 63 hectares of vines are planted in the Haut Meodc appellation which are used to produce Le Haut Medoc de Giscours. However, even the casual observer cannot help but notice there are also 50 hectares of perfectly landscaped, verdant park surroundings and lush gardens that are part of the Chateau Giscours estate.

The 102 hectare vineyard of Chateau Giscours is planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The current plantings show a marked increase in Cabernet Sauvignon. Previously, more than 50% of their vineyards were planted to Merlot. As you can see, that is no longer the case as the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon has been increased. The terroir is mostly gravel with sand and some limestone in the soil. On average, the vines are close to 45 years of age. However, the estates has vines that are up to 70 years of age. The vine density is on average, 10,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard of Chateau Giscours is divided into 43 separate plots. Today, a portion of their vineyards are farmed using biodynamic techniques. That is expected to increase over the next few years.

To produce the wine of Chateau Giscours, vinification takes place in in a combination of stainless steel vats and concrete tanks. There are 26 stainless steel tanks and 42 concrete vats that range in size from 20 hectoliters all the way up to 250 hectoliters. 80% of the Malolactic fermentation takes place in tank and 20% occurs in barrel. The wine of Chateau Giscours is aged in 50% new, French oak barrels for an average of 18 months. While Chateau Giscours is a traditional Bordeaux estate, they were one of the first properties in the Medoc to embrace optical sorting technology. In fact, they were also one of the first estates to employ gravity to filling the vats in the late 1800’s! The production of Chateau Giscours is close to 25,000 cases per year. There is a second wine, La Sirene de Giscours.

A 63 hectare plot of vines adjacent to Chateau Giscours, but outside the Margaux appellation, is bottled as Le Haut Medoc de Giscours. Other Bordeaux wines produced by the estate include Chateau Dutheil and Chateau Houringe. Both those estates are classified as Cru Bourgeois wines from the Haut Medoc appellation.

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