The 123-hectare estate is nestled in an natural amphitheatre of mountains with 57 hectares under vine planted on the foothills of the Simonsberg and benefits from a unique diversity of microclimates. 24 ha are devoted to Carbernet Sauvignon, 11 ha to Syrah, 8 ha to Merlot and the remaining to Chardonnay, Petit Verdot and Carbernet Franc. The vines can count on a constant cool breeze from the surrounding mountains as well as from the near ocean. The soil consists of decomposed granite with a deep clay base and the good drainage allows roots to grow deep, adding complexity to their wines.
We started the day with Luke O’Cuinneagain, the winemaker, who introduced May de Lencquesaing and the fascinating story of Glenelly. We learned about their intentions to make wines with minimal intervention by harvesting at the optimum time, employing careful sorting and natural fermentation methods. For the moment, they moved to organic for some of their blocks, Chardonnay and Merlot, and it looks like it’s working but they’ll take their time and weigh the pros and cons before switching entirely to organic. Then, we visited their winery: 6,000 m2 constructed across 4 levels and operating by gravity flow for more elegant and smoother wines. We’ve been amazed by the stunning light coming through the huge windows of the winery: for Luke, it’s important and so nice to have natural light and to create a connection with people working in the vineyards. What’s more, we’ve been really impressed by their strive to lessen their environmental impact: solar panels, recycled water and insulation against climate extremes. They also built big pipes in their concrete wall to run chill water in it and naturally cool the atmosphere. Then, we visited the last floor of the winery, the cellar, and tasted Shiraz juices from 300L barrel vs 500L barrel to analyse the impact of the barrel volume on the wine. The 300L Shiraz had more tanin, more texture and a chocolate taste whereas the 500L Shiraz was more savory with less tanin and more spices. Finally, we visited the Glass Collection Museum celebrating Madam de Lencquesaing’s lifelong passion for the art of glassmaking, with wine and glass’s connection being the soil.
We also got the great opportunity to taste many of their wines: find out more in our tasting article!
meeting with madam
For lunch, we had the honour to join Madam de Lencquesaing at her home. She shared with us her story, her love of wine and glass, her views on women in the wine industry with great energy and passion. At the age of 78, in 2003, she started a new adventure and purchased Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch. Then owner of the iconic Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, she recognised the great potential to grow world-class wines in Stellenbosch. There had never been vines on the property before: after cautious study of the terroir, she planted everything as she wanted and built the modern winery!
We discussed with her several points:
First of all, according to her, wine is not an industry but an art. It’s all about creativity and diversity. Indeed, each wine is unique because each year is different from the previous one, and everything is fluctuant.
In addition, she strongly claims that wine is not a passion neither a pride, but the result of a manual work. Everything is made by the hand of humans. Moreover, in order to make the best wine, you always have to question yourself and keep a critical spirit on your work. She asserts that you can always do better, there are always mistakes that could be avoided, and missing resources (lack of financial or knowledge means). She makes the comparison with the glass: in the beginning, everything is sand, but thanks to the work of humans, each piece is unique.
She also talked with us about the place of women in the wine universe. According to her, being a woman used to be tough. In the 80’s, men could tell her that she would never succeed, and they would even tell her lies to make her fail. However, she believes that as a woman, we have to take responsibilities in organisations in order to have a voice taken into account.