The Remarkable Story of Glenelly Wine
A delightful wine estate in Stellenbosch combines unique offerings with a very special vision.
In 2003, a world-renowned and pioneering female Bordeaux winemaker went on a quest to find the best terroir outside of France. She did not find it in Spain, Italy or the US; rather, she found it on a farm located on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch. Recognising the potential of the area, she set out on a new venture that continues the storied French heritage of winemaking in South Africa. She was 78 years old at the time. That woman is May-Élaine de Lencquesaing, former owner of the famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. De Lencquesaing's inspiring story set the tone for her new estate, Glenelly, which she transformed from a fruit farm into a world-class winery that currently produces some of the best red blends this side of Bordeaux.
Glenelly is also a stunningly lovely estate in and of itself, featuring a sophisticated restaurant and an unforgettable glass museum as well as a wine tasting facility. And all of it is housed in a single beautifully designed, multilayered building – so you do not need to go far to take in all of the estate's delights.
Madame de Lencquesaing has a long history of excellence in the winemaking industry. Her expertise and instincts have shaped the wines that Glenelly produces. As a member of one of Bordeaux’s oldest winemaking families, De Lencquesaing had a vision to continue this legacy in South Africa. Winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain has had the task of executing Madame de Lencquesaing's vision, and he has most definitely succeeded in doing so.
Glenelly wines are elegant and perfectly balanced. This is perhaps best seen in the two wines that are its most recent releases. Glenelly Reserve Red 2013 is the estate's signature red blend. Made from Glenelly's finest block of vines, the wine has bold aromas of blackberries, cranberries and blackcurrants. On the palate, you get hints of spicy plums and floral tones.
Glenelly Lady May is named in honour of Madame de Lencquesaing. This wine is exceedingly special. Back in 2008, De Lencquesaing poured O’Cuinneagain a glass of Lafite Rothschild from 1873 and told him that it would be the benchmark for Glenelly's flagship wine. Starting in that year, O’Cuinneagain began crafting a Bordeaux-style wine that was sophisticated and elegant, with exceptional ageing ability. The 2012 vintage of Lady May does exactly this. It has notes of blackcurrants and dark cherries with a touch of spice and fresh, vibrant flavours of fynbos. Whether you open the bottle now or 10 years from now, the experience of this fine wine will be an exceptional one.
The Glass Museum
Over the years, Madame de Lencquesaing has acquired an astonishing collection of art glass. Rather than keep her pieces locked up and gathering dust, Glenelly has created a beautiful space in which they can be admired. The Glass Museum is located under the Vine Bistro, and the collection it houses covers 2 000 years of glassmaking from all over the world. There are sculptures, chalices and Daum glasses. There are works from internationally acclaimed artists such as Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí and Venetian glass artist Lino Tagliapietra. And there are ancient artefacts too, including 'tear bottles', which the Romans used to store their joyous or mournful tear drops – and give as gifts to loved ones.
The Glass Muesem is incredibly fascinating and a unique additon to this wine estate that sets Glenelly apart from the rest. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
The Vine Bistro
After sampling the wine and wandering through the Glass Museum, you can sit down and enjoy a meal at The Vine Bistro. As Glenelly is very French, the eatery naturally serves up French-influenced cusine, and it does so in a simple and delicious way that is not intimidating. Headed by chef Christophe Dehosse, the menu is inspired by traditional French bistros and incorporates African and Mediterranean ingredients for more experimental dishes. The menu is small, with five to six options for each course, and changes regularly. It also features grass-fed and free-range meat and other ingredients wherever possible.
One of Glenelly's philosophies is that they create wine to pair with food, so all the dishes are made to complement the wines. The Vine Bistro overlooks Simonsberg and the valley, making it a stunning setting in which to sit and enjoy a couple of hours savouring an excellent meal.