Falling in Love with Glenelly Estate
In this month's edition of Together Store's 'Falling in Love" series we delve into the stories and imagination of one of South Africa's finest, French-inspired wine producers, Glenelly Estate. Love truly is the driver behind the irrepressible optimism and indomitable will of its owner and custodian, Lady May-Eliane de Lencquesaing. This is part Glenelly's story, but also part Lady May's for whom we all have such fond appreciation for.
Since Lady May's childhood in the heart of Bordeaux's finest vineyards she has travelled the world discovering the amazing diversity of terrorirs. Yet it was on her first visit to Stellenbosch in 2003 - at the evergreen age of 78 years old, she's 95 now, and still going strong - that she knew it was where she wanted to fulfil her dream of starting a new wine adventure stating "I recognised the exciting potential of Glenelly Estate on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain. I bought Glenelly because I believe in South Africa’s soil, microclimate and potential for quality wines, and I wanted to continue the French heritage of winemaking in South Africa that goes back more than three centuries. I have every confidence in this great country and its people and wished to play a part in its economic development".
Lady May's story is nothing less than film-worthy. She is, as interviewer Malu Lambert describes: "Perfectly groomed, her eyes are full of wit and kindness. Her memory is astonishing and she goes into great detail about almost every aspect of her life." And at 95 years old, she can look back to an extraordinary life. It began in Bordeaux on Château Palmer where she was born into a famous winemaking family. During World War II, as a teenager, she would cycle past Nazi blockades in occupied land to take produce from her family farm to Jewish war refugees. If that was all that she had achieved, it would be enough, yet with Lady May one mustn't rush, like her wines, the story is bold, flavourful, and full of surprise. She has collected what is now considered one of the largest private collections of glassware on Earth, having collected nearly 1,000 rare pieces of glass dating from 50BC to today from the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, Rome, Prague, Venice, Germany, England, Sweden, France and the US.
"Glass and wine have lot in common: they both come from poor material and poor soils and through man’s talent and genius, they become works of art." Lady May
But we digress, back to wine! Lady May inherited, and acquired the remainder of the share in second growth vineyard Château Pichon Longueville Lalande where she was both owner and managing director for 30 years, including over 1982 and 1983, both widely considered some of the finest in Bordeaux's history! Glenelly continues this fine tradition, with a range of incredible French-styled wines.
"My vision was to establish Glenelly Estate as a world-class estate, producing award-winning wines with Power, Elegance & Balance." Which is why their logo perfectly observes this with a powerful rhino being ridden by an elegant lady balancing one of Lady May's priceless glasses.
Glenelly wines are made in as careful a manner as possible, with Viticulturist Heinrich Louw managing the vineyard with great attention, minimal intervention and sustainable techniques. Grapes are picked early to allow for lower alcohol levels whilst retaining freshness and good tannins. Winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain and assistant Jerome Likwa endeavour to make Glenelly wines as naturally as possible with wild yeast fermentation and no acidification. The team follows a minimal intervention approach to winemaking. All of this done in one of the most advanced cellars in Africa, with incredible attention to detail, clever design including using gravity to deliver the wines around, and a cellar of some character, resplendent with modern works of art, and hand-painted barrels. It is a contrast as profound as the estate itself, the incredible amalgam of new and old.
Edgy, modern, and highly functional.
A visit to Glenelly is a sure choice for anyone visiting Stellenbosch. It's more than just a wine farm. The museum, and the fantastic French bistro make for an enjoyable and fun-filled day!
We're therefore extremely proud to represent Glenelly Estate across Africa. This young, dynamic vineyard is already producing a selection of 4* and 5* wines, and we can't wait to see how much they achieve in the future. Click Here to see our seleciton of Glenelly wines available today, or to pre-purchase some of their most sought after.