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Glenelly Estate is situated in Idas Valley, Stellenbosch, on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain. Its origins date back to the 17th century when Simon van der Stel, Governor of the Cape, gave the land to the French Huguenot François Villon in 1682. In 1812 the estate remained in French hands when it passed on to Johan Peter de Villiers.

So … why in 2003 did May de Lencquesaing, then owner of the famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande purchase the estate? Why after 30 years in the wine business in France would she decide to plant vines in South Africa? Why would an ‘older’ lady invest in this ‘younger’ democracy and start a new adventure?

Because she believes in the soil, the micro climate and the potential for quality wines. Because she believes in continuing the long relationship between the French and winemaking in South Africa going back more than three centuries. And because she believes in South Africa and wishes to play a part in its economic development.

Winemaking at Glenelly is considered an art form and 2009 saw the inauguration, on this 128ha estate, of a winery which is a stellar example of modern methods, design and environmental awareness.

Winemaker Q&A

Luke O’Cuinneagain grew up amongst the vineyards of the Constantia Valley, which sparked his interest in wine from a young age. Luke has been winemaker at Glenelly for several years, where he creates award-winning wines:

Who, within the trade, has been your biggest influence and why?

There is not one person but rather three who have had equal influence on me; Adi Badenhorst, Hubert de Bouard and May de Lencquesaing. Adi was all about the philosophy, passion and experimentation; Hubert was passion, techniques, precision and economics; and Madame is about drive, ambition and innovation.   

What was the most memorable bottle you’ve drunk? Where and when did you drink it?

1873 Lafite Rothschild which I drank with Madame when I had just started working for Glenelly, closely followed by the 1961 Pichon Comtesse de Lalande which was so amazing for the youthful character it still possessed. I enjoyed this ’61 at a dinner where we where looking at Pichon through the ages, starting with 1955.

What will be/has been new/different in 2018?

There has been nothing new in 2018 it has been more about refining techniques and getting a deeper understanding of terroir with the view of maybe doing organic wines in the future.

What is your favourite variety, why?

The two Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. Sauvignon more so due to the challenges it presents to get the perfect ripeness with balance, freshness and structure which lends itself to great aging of the wine.

What is your favourite place in the winery/vineyards and why?

In the vineyard I love being at the top of the eastern slope overlooking the property and getting a clear view of the topography of the estate and Stellenbosch while still being able to see Cape Point and False Bay. It is also the area where I have found many stone age tools – it is humbling to think that someone was here all those years ago and looking at these same mountains and hills.

In the cellar it has to be the barrel room when everybody has left – you can almost hear the barrels talking to you as the wine is “growing through its teenage years in barrel”.