Histoire du Château
Château de la Garde
Château de la Garde (as it was called in the early days) was built in the 13th century at the top of a hill for its strategic location overlooking the Dordogne. It was built as the residence for the private army (the ‘garde’) of the Duke d’Aubray, who served the French king Louis IX. Hence the name ‘Le château de la Garde’.
For safety reasons the duke himself chose to move into a second castle, roughly a hundred yards from the spot where he feared things could get somewhat inflamed. However it didn’t help him much when during the Hundred Years’ War the English came sailing up the river (in 1427) and used their cannon to raze the Duke’s castle to the ground. Château de la Garde too was annihilated, but rebuilt in the same year.
This time the stronghold was assigned an agrarian destination. The 570 acres of land were used for farming and pasture. The owners grew grain, kept cattle and made wine. Over the course of the following centuries the acreage diminished, the cows and wheat disappeared and only the vineyards remained, roughly 90 acres these days.
After a long string of owners, Ilja Gort acquired the castle on the 18th of August 1994.
Exactly 16 years later, on the 18th of August 2010, he added the name of his most successful wine to that of the chateau. Since then it is called ‘Château la Tulipe’.
1994 purchase of CHATEAU DE LA GARDE
1996 birth of LA TULIPE
Ilja has written a hilarious book about the conception and birth of his La Tulipe wine of which over 250.000 copies have been sold to date: Surviving France: The merry adventures of a Dutch winemaker in France.
“Things are going well. The large 10,000-litre cuve is already filled to the brim. Suddenly I spot David casually opening the tap at the bottom of the cuve we’ve just sealed. A cascade of pink grape juice gushes out, foaming into the gutter.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ I scream in astonishment. ‘Turn it off!!’
‘No worries, mate,’ he laughs, ‘I’m just bleeding…’
I watch, stupefied, as dozens of litres of our precious wine flow into the sewer. David explains that this is a process called ‘saigner’, or bleeding. By draining the first juice, the remaining wine becomes more concentrated. On a whim I walk over and stick my head into the gushing pink stream. Gallons of fresh rosé bubble over my head! A deliciously intoxicating sensation: sweet juice splashes into my mouth, into my ears and into my eyes.
It is love at first sense. Coughing and sputtering, I jump out from under the stream and turn off the tap. ‘This is it!’ I yell at David. ‘We’re making rosé!’ He smiles and gives me a thumbs-up.”
2000 BEST BORDEAUX WINE / ENTRY TO THE CONFRÉRIE
Excerpt from Surviving France about Ilja’s admission to the confrérie.
Slightly excited, we arrive at the Maison du Vin. An expectant murmur reverberates against the high walls and slowly the large hall fills up with hundreds of wine bigwigs in black-tie outfits.
On the stage at the centre of the hall are the twelve maîtres in scarlet velvet cloaks. Paul tugs at my sleeve. ‘Come on!’ he whispers, ‘let’s go to the front!’ One of the maîtres steps up to the microphone to begin his welcome speech. Then he announces the enthronement of a new knight.
‘This is a special person, an example to all of us, truly a source of pride for France…’ and so on in similar vein. He then ceremoniously unrolls a document, frowns briefly at the parchment, and faces the audience again to announce in a bronzen voice: ‘Monsieur Ilja Gort.’
I let out a thundering fart in surprise, and suppress a strong urge to flee. Then I spot Paul’s grinning mug beside me and realise: the scoundrel has secretly nominated me!
As I take the stage, my primary concern is that the cello tape holding up my trouser hems will stay put. In broken schoolboy French I start to stutter a few improvised words of thanks.
From Château de la Garde to Château La Tulipe
“It turns out there is a whole bunch of chateaux with the name Château de la Garde. Among them is one which produces a wine you wouldn’t even wash your feet in. This leads to all sorts of bothersome misunderstandings at wine fairs, in guidebooks and online.
But can you really just go ahead and change the name of a chateau that has borne that name since the year 1200? Will that cause doom and bad luck to rain down on you, as with changing the name of a ship?
After years of torturous doubt and procrastination we have decided to leave the name as it is, but just add one little word. So since 2010 our castle is called: Château la Tulipe de la Garde. Shortened to Château la Tulipe.”
Wine flies when you’re having fun
“Our label has displayed the words ‘Père & Fils’ for a very long time. Years ago in a restaurant I saw someone panic at the sight of the long and complex wine list. To get it over and done with he snapped the list shut and told the waiter: ‘Get me a bottle of Père et fils please’. I thought it was funny and put it on the label as a joke; my son Klaas was only six years old back then. But time flies when you’re making wine and this year Klaas (now 29) has become maître du Château. Thanks to his enthusiasm and his love of wine the phrase ‘Père & Fils’ on our label has finally become reality.”