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Owner of Bordeaux's Château Giscours Buys Tuscan Estate

Caiarossa produces reds from the Montescudaio appellation, a new hot spot for winery development.

Per-Henrik Mansson
Posted: April 27, 2004

The owner of Château Giscours, a third-growth in Bordeaux's Margaux appellation, has purchased an estate in Tuscany, in an area on the "Etruscan Coast" that has become a hot spot for new wine investments in recent years.

Eric Albada Jelgersma, a wealthy Dutch businessman, bought Fattoria Fiamminga Serra all'Olio on Feb. 26 and changed its name to Caiarossa. The 91-acre estate is located east of Riparbella, a village in the province of Pisa that is part of the Montescudaio DOC appellation.

Montescudaio may not have the same cachet as its more famous neighbor to the south, Bolgheri, where renowned wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia are grown. But in recent years, Montescudaio has attracted outside investors, including Italian winemaking consultant Luca d'Attoma, who owns a 15-acre estate there, and Massimo Ferragamo, who is a member of the well-known fashion family and also owns Castiglion del Bosco in the Montalcino appellation.

Albada Jelgersma, who has overseen a turnaround at Giscours, prefers to invest in undervalued estates. "He likes to buy properties that have much growth potential, whether they have been mismanaged or are in bad shape," said Alexander Van Beek, the general manager of Giscours and Château du Tertre, another Margaux estate owned by Albada Jelgersma.

The Italian investment was not part of Albada Jelgersma's plans. "It just landed at his feet; it doesn't mean we are looking to Italy," said Van Beek. "We are still looking for deals in Bordeaux."

The Tuscan estate's previous owner, Flemish businessman Jan Theys, said he had invested between 4 million and 5 million euros in the property since 1998. But the former music and TV producer ran out of capital and looked for a buyer who shared his interest in natural vineyard management.

"I made money when I sold my music label to Sony, but this project needed much more financial weight than I could handle, so I decided to find a solution," said Theys, 49, who will remain as general manager. "I love the vineyards and making special wines, and that is also what attracted Eric Albada. He is a solid owner who wants to build on the original concept."

The 30 acres of vines are farmed biodynamically -- a natural method that is similar to organic farming but with a spiritual component. Winemaking is done as naturally as possible in a new four-floor, gravity-flow winery; Theys uses indigenous yeasts and ferments in concrete and wooden vats. The property already produces olive oil from century-old trees.

The Giscours team was impressed by Theys' investments and by the first wines made on the estate, from the 2002 and 2003 vintages. "I was totally flabbergasted by the quality of the wines given that they are made from such young vines," Van Beek said. "The potential here is remarkable."

Theys made 400 cases in 2002, a rainy vintage in Tuscany. The wine, La Serra, is a blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. About 20 cases will be shipped to the United States where it will retail for an estimated $50 a bottle.

In 2003, Theys made three additional reds. La Sassa is 95 percent Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot and Petit Verdot. La Botra is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. And La Ripa is a Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache and Vigonier. The vineyard is planted to 11 varieties, including Chardonnay, which will be produced in 2004, Theys said.

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