Dutch tycoon Eric Albada Jelgersma, the owner of third-growth Bordeaux estate Château Giscours and fifth-growth Château du Tertre in the Margaux appellation, as well as the Tuscan winery Caiarossa, died peacefully at his home in Verbier, Switzerland, on June 21. He was 79.
"Eric had a longstanding passion for the Bordeaux region and loved spending time here, learning, understanding and pushing his team towards excellence," general manager Alexander van Beek told Wine Spectator. "He was a colorful man, full of courage and discretion, with great interest in everything around him, and was actively involved in many different charities. His passion for music and art has always played an essential part in his life, and he saw his wine properties as a living art form."
Albada Jelgersma made his first investment in wine in 1995, when he acquired from Nicolas Tari a 51 percent stake in the company that held the farming lease for Giscours for $31 million. Giscours is a vast, historical estate of 741 acres, with 222 acres under vine. Two years later, he bought the neighboring 125-acre Château du Tertre in Margaux from the Capbern Gasqueton family.
But the investment in Giscours was plagued by protracted legal battles with the Tari family. The original deal gave the Dutch businessman the right to use the land and make the wine at Giscours, but didn't give him ownership of the buildings and most of the vineyards. Legal battles ensued for years.
And in 1998, Giscours was roiled by scandal. Albada Jelgersma and former employees Jean-Michel Ferrandez and Pascal Froidefond were charged with wine fraud concerning the 1995 vintage, and found guilty of improperly blending vintages and using oak staves to flavor the estate’s second wine.
But the new winemaking team Albada Jelgersma had put in place, headed by van Beek, soon gained recognition for their dedication to quality and rebuilt the estate’s reputation. They have also been leaders in wine tourism, renovating and opening Giscours and du Tertre for events and bed-and-breakfast accommodations.
In 2004, Albada Jelgersma bought vineyards in Tuscany, creating the 79-acre Caiarossa. "His Tuscan estate Caiarossa was his newborn, with its own unique contemporary expression, where he combined the delicacy of Margaux with the generosity of the beautiful region," said van Beek.
The following year, in 2005, Albada Jelgersma was injured in a sailing accident and left paralyzed.
It is expected that Albada Jelgersma's children Dennis, Derk and Valerie will continue their father's wine business. "His children have the same commitment to their properties and will bring their fresh energy to continue to strive for perfection," van Beek said.
In addition to his investments in wine, Albada Jelgersma owned real estate and a major distribution company in the Netherlands. He is survived by his three children and 11 grandchildren.