Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lady May - A Celebration of Glenelly’s Flagship Wine

A Celebration of Glenelly’s flagship wine
What an invitation, one we were very keen to accept, as this opportunity does not come often on wine farms. Not many farms, in making their top wines, celebrate the vintage and let the wine express it, rather than trying to fit into an annual 'recipe'. On Glenelly in Ida's Valley in Stellenbosch, winemaker Luke O'Cuinneagain told us they often have vintage variations and he has to let the wines speak for themselves. And they certainly do, in a very good way, while still being recognisable as themselves
Our programme for the day was: 10.30am sharp: Meeting at the winery: Welcome by Nicolas Bureau (Madame’s grandson) and Posy Hazell. 10.40am Grape tasting in the vineyard with viticulturist Heinrich Louw. 11.20am: Lady May tasting with Luke O’Cuinneagain in the barrel cellar 12.20pm: Tasting and unveiling of the Lady May 2012 with May de Lencquesaing in the Glass Museum 1.00pm: Lunch in The Vine Bistro hosted by Nicolas Bureau, Luke O'Cuinneagain, Susan Dehosse and Posy Hazell. 2.30pm: end
 The entrance. Glenelly was founded in 2003 by Mme May-Éliane de Lencquesaing, who was the owner of Second Growth Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux until she sold it to the Roederer Champagne house. She started afresh, planting vines where there had been orchards of fruit trees. It is a valley with good soils and microclimates, with vineyards facing many different directions. They have 60 hectares. The aim always has been to plant Bordeaux grapes and produce fine wines
In the wine tasting area where we gathered and met Madame May's grandson Nicolas Bureau
The views from the modern 6000 square meter environmentally friendly winery - completed in 2008 - are superb
We head out to see the vineyards, taste some of the Merlot grapes and watch the staff picking the Cabernet in the distance. It was HOT
Madame May's grandson Nicolas Bureau, who is their export director
Viticulturist Heinrich Louw gave us the lowdown on the vineyards, the terroir, the soil and the climate. He is passionate about his vineyards, mostly on Hutton and Clovelly decomposed granite soils, topped with a layer of surface clay in some areas. He subscribes to "giving them great attention, minimal intervention and using sustainable techniques"
Really healthy grapes in huge trusses. There was bad hail in the valley during the week, with hailstones the size of ice cubes but, because of the protective canopy and the direction of the rows, there was minimal damage to the grapes
The Merlot was being picked on the East facing slope
Down the rows of neat Cabernet Sauvignon vines. These will probably only be picked in about three weeks time. The grapes tasted of the classic cassis but need more time to gain depth of flavour
Very fecund vines
A shady glade in the middle
Heinrich picked a bunch for us to see how small Cabernet grapes are. These are very healthy
Winemaker Luke O'Cuinneagain joined us. He started at Glenelly in 2007 and did the first Glenelly harvest in 2008
Grapes coming in for crushing
The barrel cellar. Oh, the smell of a cellar with good wine fermenting in it is wonderful. They do not use air conditioning, the building is built in such a way that there is a solar thermal mode, so heat has little impact and they get constant stable temperatures, without spikes and troughs, which is what good wine needs to mature
A tasting of the several vintages of their flagship wine, Lady May, had been set up in the cellar for us. It is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with just a splash of Merlot and Petit Verdot
We began with the first vintage 2008. Luke told us it was cold and wet winter and spring and they had to harvest in the rain, just as they have to in Bordeaux. This was 90% Cabernet and 10% Petit Verdot. They often put this wine in a Master of Wine tasting and no one picks up that it is from South Africa. It begins quite austere, but then softens and begins to open up and, suddenly, it is not shy anymore, with the fruit saying “hello” loudly. Dark claret in colour with browning rim, this has cassis, cherries and incense wood with pencil shavings on the amazing nose which keeps opening and evolving in the glass. Silky and full of Cabernet fruit, with chalky, grippy fruit tannins and some leafy greenness which adds freshness, tobacco hints and some violets on the end. A powerful wine. Luke uses medium to medium plus toast 300 litre new oak barrels for 24 months minimum. The 2009 has liquorice and black berry fruit and its very attractive nose has some violets from the Petit Verdot. This was picked in a warm summer and has rich ripe berries, with explosive fruit. Dry chalky tannins, more liquorice and marmite, with long, strong flavours, some graphite, and a slight bitterness (from the wood ?) on the end. Tim Atkin has awarded the 2013 an astounding 95 points.
We then tasted the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a slightly lactic nose, is dark garnet and opaque.. Cassis and morello cherries, pencil shavings, incense wood and some herbal notes. Spent 12 months in new French oak. Lovely fruit on the palate, intense, attractive and sweet with some soft chalky tannins and no bitterness
We also had a taste of the Petit Verdot. So full of Parma violets on the nose with red and black cherries. So attractive. On the palate, still mouth puckering tannins, chalk and cassis and rhubarb on the end. Some black pepper spice and pencil shaving wood
 Luke guiding us through the tasting. And then the Cab Franc. Incense wood, green leaves, berries are shyly in the background and hints of Chanel perfume. As you swirl the wine opens, showing mushrooms and forest floor with some oaty notes from the wood. Tight berries, jujube flavours, like Rowntree’s blackcurrant gums, clean on the palate. Some green notes appear with pencil shavings as the wine opens up. We liked all three and wanted to try to make a blend of them to see what the result might be. But it was time to head to the restaurant for lunch
Lots of questions to answer about the wines and the making of them
The tanks for the two Chardonnays. one goes into oak
The cellar has lovely views over Ida’s Valley
Our table in the restaurant
You can also eat out on the shaded terrace
The menu for the day. The chef is Christophe Dehosse, a Frenchman from Provence who also has a Bistro restaurant at Joostenberg. His food is always exciting and a good blend of French with South African ingredients
The Glenelly Estate 2016 Chardonnay was just what we needed with the first course. A golden nose of perfumed peaches, a hint of the sea, crisp and full in a classic French style, ending with refreshing lime and lemon notes
Oh what an astoundingly good dish this was. Billed simply as Tomato consommé with yellowtail and langoustine, it was delicate but complex and was made with sieved tomato water, small cubes of tomato concasse and cucumber; a cool broth of summer, dressed with green olive oil and fennel, coriander and chive herbs, topped with crisped basil leaves. And in the bottom ceviché of yellowtail and langoustine tails that gave the broth a hint of the sea. There was good sourdough bread on the table as an accompaniment
The Lady May 2012, which is just being launched, was served with the next course. Its incense wood notes with layers of deep cassis, cherry and berry fruit, fresh and slightly warmly alcoholic. It was a poem with the roast lamb ...
... which was the main course. Perfectly cooked fillet of lamb, tender and pink, roast root vegetables, and puffs of light-as-air Parisienne gnocchi, well roasted onions, beetroot, heritage carrots with a thyme jus extraordinaire. And what Lynne thought was a magnificent faggot (chef likes using offal) but Christoph explained was a lamb mince kofta. So nice to see properly roasted onion: onion just seared on one face is what most chefs are serving at the moment and they are mostly inedible
For one guest who does not eat meat, a Seafood Bouillabaisse, which is on the normal menu. Might have to go back and try that, soon
Then the 2010 Lady May, which has soft sweet fruit, is powerful with lovely chalky tannins; this wine is soft and delicious. Drinking at its peak
This was perfect for the final course of local cheeses with fresh figs, nuts and grapes from the vineyards
Chef Patron Christophe Dehosse just making a quick appearance out of his hot kitchen so we could thank him
The beautiful Simonsberg mountains as we left for home after some good double espressos and their trademark Canelle from Bordeaux, which we can never get enough of... Thank you all at Glenelly for a truly marvellous day with great wine and food
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