The Week Wines Dinner: Glenelly, South Africa

November 19, 2018

The Week Wines' final wine pairing dinner of 2018 was a fascinating affair. It showcased the range of wines created by a Bordeaux legend; only this was on an estate in South Africa.

May de Lencquesaing sold the prestigious Bordeaux Château Pichon Lalande in her late seventies and purchased Glenelly Estate - then a fruit farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Fifteen years later, both are still going strong, with Glenelly now one of the leading wine estates in the country.

The dinner was hosted at the excellent Noizé Restaurant in London’s Fitzrovia district, north of Oxford Street. Nicolas Bureau, Madame Lencquesaing’s grandson and sales manager of Glenelly, joined us for the evening and spoke eloquently to the guests about the wines.

Glenelly may have originally been a fruit farm on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, but it is adjacent to Rustenberg, one of the most famous estates in South Africa. All of the usual Bordeaux grape varieties have been planted, along with a small amount of Syrah, the main grape of the Northern Rhone plus some Chardonnay.

There are two Chardonnays – the unoaked Glass Collection 2018 and the more complex Estate Reserve 2016, which is finished in French oak barrels. These are not the typical turbocharged New World Chardonnays but complex elegant examples that would easily stand comparison with White Burgundy. The Reserve Chardonnay was served with poached cod, savoy cabbage, braised salsify and Alsace bacon, which only highlighted the complexity of the wine and its potential to improve for a few more years to come. 

Next, with the wild mushroom risotto, were the two mainstay reds of the estate, the Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 and the Glenelly Estate Reserve 2012. All of the Glass Collection are single varietals and are named after Madame Lencquesaing’s other passion – glass. She has a world famous collection of glassware going back to the Ancient World. Again, these wines are balanced, understated examples of “New World” Cabernets and while they can be enjoyed now after decanting, have the potential to age for another five to 10 years. The Glenelly Estate Reserve is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot plus a dose of Syrah, which adds some spice to the blend.

The main course was venison wellington, perfectly cooked and the ideal partner of the Lady May 2011 Cabernet blend, which is the showcase wine of the estate. This award-winning wine has a long future ahead of it and was the perfect accompaniment of this robust dish. This has the cigar box, pencil lead and dried fruit elements you would expect from a St Julien Bordeaux, with a touch more persistence given the climate and terroir of the vineyard. 

The final wine for the evening was a pure syrah, again from the Glass Collection, served with the cheese course. This has the spiciness and pepper overtones you would expect from a Rhone varietal but is crafted to drink relatively young.

Altogether a fascinating evening, with wines of character that respect their European origins but show the potential that caused Madame Lencquesaing to launch this extraordinary new venture. 

If you weren't with us to experience the wines first hand, we have a special offer from wine merchants Private Cellar. Savings are available on all cases of 12 bottles, and free delivery to mainland UK addresses are available. Click here to view the full collection.

I do hope you enjoy them, 

Bruce Palling

Bruce Palling, Wine Editor
The Week Wines

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