Château la Tulipe de la Garde is a winery located between the famous wine village of Saint-Emilion and the Dordogne River in the Bordeaux region of France.
The estate was purchased in 1994 by famous Dutch rock star Ilja Gort.
Working with star consultant Michel Rolland as far as winemaking is concerned (note from Julien: like I did back in my days as a winemaker), they are also very active and creative with their digital presence and marketing.
Together with the more Bordeaux-classic range under the Château la Tulipe de la Garde label, the producer also sells wines under the ‘Slurp’ label: claimed to be natural wine sold in Albert Heijn in the Netherlands (The Dutch equivalent to Tesco) but also in large volumes in UK supermarkets.
Read on as they tell us about their story, their wines, their vineyards, their passion.
Wine Reviews & Tasting Notes
The information below was provided by Château la Tulipe de la Garde exclusively for Social Vignerons.
The Chateau itself dates back to the mid-14th century when it was built as a guard post to keep an eye on the Dordogne river that flows past, maybe 1km downhill from the defensive walls.
Our adventure started in 1994 when Ilja Gort bought Chateau la Tulipe, knowing very little about the winemaking process but being very passionate about it. Though being a former rock star (in The Netherlands), the main reason he bought the estate was to live in a peaceful and quiet environment.
Now, 22 years later, it’s gone from an interesting hobby to the family business, and we’ve managed to expand by 30 hectares (for a total of 40 ha or 100 acres) and launched 2 additional brands.
Our Chateau is located just north-east of Bordeaux, about 20 min from the edge of the city, where we produce our Bordeaux Superieur. With our expansion and new brands also came new vineyards and new regions so we’ve also got wines from the Gers, the Pays d’Oc area, and Spain.
The climate around Chateau la Tulipe is fairly typical for Bordeaux, plenty of sun and around 600mm of rain over the year. The only thing that makes our climate a little special is the close proximity to the Dordogne river and our relative elevation (around 50m) compared to the surrounding area.
This gives us a micro climate which so far has resulted in no grail over the last 22 years. The closest it’s ever gotten was the vineyards of one of our neighbours (knock on wood).
We’ve got a few types of soil, but the biggest part is composed of calcareous-clay so they mainly consist of clay and limestone. We think this is great for the wine, less so for our ploughs, but we make do… and repairs.
Vineyards & grape varieties
The Chateau has around 40 hectares of vineyard (100 acres), some of which is currently not productive but resting after a few decades of grapes production.
Our other brands did start at the chateau as well but started to grow fairly rapidly and therefore we needed new vineyards, we now also have vineyards in the Gers, in the Pays d’Oc, and around Valencia, Spain, totaling about 500 ha (1200 acres).
Every time we replant a vineyard, we run soil analyses to verify that it is indeed the right type, and has the right amount of nutrients for the varietal we want to plant. Usually the vineyard’s orientation is either dependent on the sun as it passes in the sky during the day or the slope of the hill they’re on.
As mentioned before, the château dates back to the 14th century and started out as a guard post, then it was used to house the personal guard of some sort of lord who lived in another castle which has since been destroyed (so not great personal guard).
Since our winemaking became a bit less of a hobby we’ve constructed our own chai/winery to be certain of temperature control and hygiene. In there, we’ve got a bunch of stainless steel tanks, which are temperature-controlled, for the first month or so after harvest. After that the wine goes to the other side of the chai, and into the wine barrels (French oak).
While we do not currently have nor aim to achieve the AB Bio label for organic-certified agriculture, we do work in an organic and environmentally responsible way. We don’t use any insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, any -cides really. We only use copper and sulphur. We also plough frequently to make sure the roots go as deep into the earth as possible, to make sure they can always find at least something to eat and drink, even when it’s particularly dry.
We also give a little bit of friendly competition to our vines by leaving bands of grass to grow in-between certain rows.
We occasionally do a vendange ‘en vert’ (cutting off bunches to reduce yield while the grapes are still green) to avoid exhausting the plants, for which we get volunteers over who put their tents up in the park and we give them the experience of a lifetime.
People at the Chateau
There’s the owner, Ilja Gort who used to be a rock star in the 60s and 70s. He transitioned into making jingles-tunes for TV commercials, and then slowly turned into a vigneron after buying the château in 1994.
Our winemaker is Michel Rolland, with whom we’ve been working for about 6 years now. Being the busy man he is, his right-hand man, Bruno Lacoste is the one we see the most, and to complete the winemaking team we recruited Caroline Shipley. She’s made wine all over the planet, most recently in Burgundy, before settling in Bordeaux.
Our HR manager, Paul Bordes has been around from the beginning and has always been a great help.
Another longtime employee is Philippe, who’s been with us for the last 20 years. All round handyman and resident Wiseman. Knows everything, and can fix pretty much anything.
Pretty much since the beginning it’s said ‘Père et fils‘ on the label, more as a joke than anything else, but now it’s actually true, and the fils, Klaas, is now a valued member of the team.
Our production varies a little year to year, but on average I’d say we produce around 22.500HL per year over all our different wines (about 3 million bottles).
At the top of our list is the Bordeaux Superieur
Then we’ve got the Tulipe line up with a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Rosé (Merlot) and a Prestige red and white which are oaked assemblages.
At the entry-level we have Slurp with a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Rosé (Syrah/Grenache), and a Muscat.
Cellar door information
You can visit our Chateau and the winery in Bordeaux but only by appointment, which can be made by emailing: visite @ chateaulatulipe.fr
Here you’ll have the possibility to arrange a tour, a tasting, or even a lunch depending on how many people are in your group.