WINE: Alistair Gibson on a grande dame of the Old World findingÂ inspiration in the New
I was lucky enough last week to host a wine dinner with Nicolas Bureau of South Africa's Glenelly Estate.Â To a full house, Nicolas told of the founding of the wineryÂ which isÂ one of the most amazing tales in the modern history of wine.
It wasÂ the vision of Madame May de Lencquesaing who in 2003, agedÂ 78, andÂ owner of the famous ChÃ¢teau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, boughtÂ a fruit farm and established Glenelly.
Why, after 30 years in the French wine business,Â would sheÂ plant vines in South Africa? Why would an older womanÂ invest in this youngÂ democracy and start a new adventure? It seems she wanted a new challenge and believed in the soil, the micro climate and potential for quality wines. And she believed in South Africa and wanted to play a part in its economic development.
I visited Glenelly earlier this year spendingÂ a day with its winemaker and can only sayÂ she has achieved her vision which was to establish Glenelly as '˜a world-class estate producing wines with power, elegance and balance'.Â As Nicolas, May'sÂ grandson,Â said at the dinner: '˜The wines effortlessly bridge the gap between Old WorldÂ elegance and New WorldÂ power.'
Glenelly is planted mainly with classic Bordeaux grape varieties plus a little syrah and chardonnay and if I had to choose three current releases
showing what is exciting so many wine critics about this estate it would be these:
Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Stellenbosch (Hermitage Cellars Â£14.60, frontierfinewines.co.uk Â£16.85) takes a Burgundian approach with natural fermentation taking place in a mixÂ of new and second-fill barrels before maturing for 11 months in-barrel. The nose has apple, citrus and melon with background butterscotch notes. The palate is beautifully balanced with citrus,Â minerals and a long, textured finish. It wouldn't be out of placeÂ in a line-up of fine white Burgundy.
Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Franc 2015, Stellenbosch (Hermitage Cellars Â£11, frontierfinewines.co.uk Â£12.80) is one of a handful of single varietal cabernet franc wines produced in South Africa. It's better known as part of the classicÂ Bordeaux blend of grapes but also found as a single varietal in the Loire Valley. There are dark cherries, dried herbs and a touch of spice before a supple palate with more dark fruit and smooth tannins. Chill briefly and serve with seared tuna.
Glenelly Estate Reserve Red 2012, Stellenbosch (Hermitage Cellars Â£14.60, frontierfinewines.co.uk Â£16.60) shows just what this estate can achieve. A cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend plus some merlot and petit verdot, it's matured in French oak for 18 months. It hasÂ plums, blackberries, violets and spices on the nose followed by ripe dark fruits, more spice and firmÂ but balanced tannins '“ brilliant value given the quality. You could put it away for a few years but it's drinking wonderfully now as guests discovered at the dinner when matched with lamb.
'¢Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars. Call 01243 431002 or e-mail [email protected]