We visited more than a dozen wineries in South Africa during our recent wine and safari excursion. Perhaps the most unique was Glenelly Estate which combines a love of glass art with French wine.
Stellenbosch: A Shining Star Of Wine
Stellenbosch, founded in 1679, is located within the winelands of South Africa’s Western Cape Province about 40 kilometers from Cape Town. There are more than 150 to explore in the district. The area is surrounded by majestic mountains and the city itself offers old world charm and historic buildings.
Much of our time in the Stellenbosch area was spent at wineries in the mountainous Helshoogte Pass in the Greater Simonsberg District. We decided to venture down from the mountains to the unique Glenelly Estate.
French Roots Run Deep
The Glenelly Estate is in the Ida's Valley, located in Stellenbosch. Its history dates back to the seventeenth century. Simon van der Stel, Governor of the Cape, gave the land to the Huguenot François Villion. In 1812, the estate passed to Johan Peter de Villiers, and finally in 1911 it became the property of a British Famliy, the Garlicks. They owned it for 92 years until its purchase in 2003 by “Lady May,” May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, who for over 30 years was the owner of the famed Bordeaux Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac Grand Cru Classé.
Although she wasn’t there, we did toast Lady May. She has great class and a wonderful eye for quality. Before establishing Glenelly, she sold Chateau Pichon to Roederer Champagne for not doubt a good sum. No shortcuts were taken in the beautiful “cellar door” of Glenelly.
While many of the wineries we visited in Simonsberg had a visual focus on the surrounding mountains, Glenelly is nestled in a valley. Panoramic views from the tasting room allow you to view the well-tended rows of vines and the pastoral hillsides.
Artistically Crafted Wines
We walked into the tasting room and beheld a bright and airy scene of white and glass. The winery features a glass museum and many precious pieces of art. The elegant setting foreshadowed a first class experience.
The starting point was Chardonnay, and we sampled the 2013 Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay and the 2013 Grand Vin de Glenelly Chardonnay.
The unoaked variety with its light body and lime zest flavors appealed to my wife, the Green Dragon. The Grand Vin Chard has vanilla and butterscotch flavors with a note of toasted almond.
Red Wines With Continental Styling
South Africa does Merlot very well, I reflected while I sipped on the 2012 Glass Collection Merlot. This we found to have a savory spin with plum and spicy notes.
To compare and contrast, we had the 2012 Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. This had spiciness and currant flavors with a touch of mocha.
What is remarkable is that each of these wines (thanks to a favorable exchange rate between the US Dollar and the South African Rand) costs only about $6 US. That’s a phenomenal value. The Glass Collection range also has a 2011 Syrah, which is done whole cluster and has great floral notes.
The signature blend of the winery is the Grand Vin de Glenelly. We dove into the 2009 vintage. The blend features 42% Shiraz, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 4% Petite Verdot. Deep, dark and rich this wine is very smooth with strands of dark fruit woven with cedar and toast. At 135R (about $11.30 US) we bought a bottle to bring home to the US.
A Salute To Lady May
While most Glenelly wines feature illustrations of historic glass pieces, one stands alone: the namesake Lady May. This bottle is adorned with an artistic rendering of the lady herself. We tasted the 2011 vintage, which is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 10% Petite Verdot.
Considered the flagship wine, the 2010 vintage shows more of a delicate side of Cabernet. It is aged 24 months in new French Oak. While it certainly is delicious now, this could age for up to 10 years. It currently is a very ripe and savory wine with tea and raspberry hints.
After sipping the Lady May, we took a short tour to view the glass displays. The art is world class and museum quality. This held particular interest to us since our home base of Toledo is known as the “Glass City.”
Glenelly is a highly recommended visit to South Africa travelers and the reasons are crystal clear. Not only is this a destination for premier wine, but the glass collection alone makes an appealing attraction.