Class in Glass at Glenelly
Thursday 20 April 2017
I wrote the word ‘elegant’ in my tasting notes before I picked up the mini wine menu in the Glenelly tasting room. The estate logo of the lady riding a rhino puzzled until I saw the words “Power-Elegance-Balance”. All made sense now. The drive past the classic pale gates and though the tidy trimmed vines, in deep vibrant autumn colours, was beautiful. The curving road led up to an angular modern building jutting out of the hillside. Glenelly was bold and impressive.
I found the Tasting Room on the top floor and introduced myself to Tanya and John. It was John’s first day so he was shadowing Tanya. I was pleased to taste again. Four wines were offered for tasting and I opted, as preferred, to taste ‘blind’. Unusually, the tasting was free. I asked to be shown 2 whites and 2 reds. The Tasting Room is expansive, well decorated and with stunning views. There were tables set out for a tour group, yet to arrive, and I relaxed on a comfortable sofa beside an open bookcase with wine books and bottles on display.
Glenelly oozed style and attention to detail. Tonya and John were smartly dressed in red and white polo shirts, echoing the branded estate colours. I read in the mini booklet that the estate was reborn in 2003 – as so many in the Western Cape – by a 78-year old French woman called May de Lencquesaing. She owned one of the classic Bordeaux estates. Glenelly was a new adventure – even at her advanced age – and vines were planted on the hilly South-East facing slopes. The ancient soils of decomposed granites over clay enable the vine roots to grow deep. Sixty-five of the 123 hectare estate is under vine, a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot together with Chardonnay.
I opened with 2 Chardonnay, the first unoaked and the second aged in 500l French oak for 9 months. I like the pale and medium straw colours, their forward aromas, crisp dry acidity, and balance. The oaked Estate Reserve stood out for me with primary aromas of honeycomb, nougat and caramel layered over warm fruits of stewed apple and apricot. It was a delight.
I scored the 2 reds equally which was interesting as they were very different in price. The Glass Collection Syrah cost R95 compared with the Lady May (a largely Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux blend) that was priced at R420. It just goes to show the benefit of and my fascination with ‘blind’ tasting.
I asked to taste 2 more wines even though they were not part of my official tasting. It was well that I did as I enjoyed them both and bought a bottle of each. The Cabernet Franc was fruity and dark, broody with earthy and leathery aromas. I guessed a Bordeaux grape, not a Cabernet Sauvignon but perhaps a Petit Verdot. The earthiness followed though onto the palate with a balance between moderately grippy tannin and a rounded mouth feel. The final wine was the entry level Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon with its label neatly showing the aromas and notes. It too impressed with complex dark berry fruits and currants laced with mint and cigar.
After, I looked into the beautifully designed Vine Bistro before descending to the Glass Collection at the lower level. May de Lencquesaing has had a lifelong passion for rare and contemporary glass and has one of the largest privately-owned collections in the world. The lighting was subdued but each cabinet was shown off to perfection.
I would liked to have stayed longer but I wanted to visit Simonsig after. Glenelly was a real treat and an estate whose wines show obvious elegance, balance and fine detail. This showed through each element, from the vines to their terroir, to the architecture and the interior design, to the wines and the glass collection. I could sense a very French refinement and grandness, together with a balance between power and fine touch. The match between class and glass – and the wines served within – was elegance indeed.
Wines tasted (bought *):
2016 Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay – R95
2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay – R210
2014 Glass Collection Syrah – R95
2011 Lady May (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) – R420
2015 Glass Collection Cabernet Franc – R95*
2014 Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon – R95* FAVOURITE WINE