French owned winery, Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch, have released their 2012 vintage of their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon – Lady May. I absolutely love the story behind the origin of this estate. Dame May de Lencquesaing, bought the farm at the grand age of 78 and turned the estate into what it is today.
“The journey of Lady May started ten years ago, in 2008, when I was invited to visit May de Lencquesaing in France,” recalls Glenelly winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain. “She poured me a glass of wine to taste. All I knew was that is was a special Bordeaux wine from her cellar. Despite the obvious age of the wine it displayed extraordinary finesse, freshness and depth. To my huge surprise the wine turned out to be a 1873 Lafite Rothschild, ‘the benchmark’, according to Madame, for the flagship wine we would be producing at Glenelly. Four years later we launched Lady May, named in honour of Glenelly’s Grande Dame. 2008 was the first step on an exciting adventure towards producing a ground-breaking Bordeaux-style wine with great elegance and exceptional ageing ability.”
Lady May is crafted predominantly from a single Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard planted on a cool east facing slope, with a dash of other Bordeaux varieties. Taking after its owner, the wine is elegant, distinguished and venerable. A sculpture of May de Lencquesaing by famous French artist Maxime Real del Sarte (1948), a wedding gift, adorns the label.
Having been set an enormous challenge by Madame, Glenelly have produced several highly-acclaimed vintages of Lady May, reaping prestigious awards, including a pinnacle 5-star rating for the 2009 vintage in Platter’s wine guide. In 2017 Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge (IWC), paid tribute to May de Lenquesaing and Glenelly at the IWC Awards ceremony when she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. “Anyone who has been lucky enough to drink a bottle of the legendary 1982 Pichon Lalande and to see the foundations she laid at the Château will recognise what she achieved in Bordeaux; anyone who has tasted recent vintages of her Glenelly Lady May red will recognise what she has achieved in South Africa. Few people make such a mark on two continents.”
GLENELLY LADY MAY 2012
2012 is the latest vintage to be released. The refreshed label captures the purity and elegance of the wine. The warm gold colour of the new capsule and the illustration on the label, reflect a return to May’s illustrious roots at Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, where the original capsules were the very same shade of gold. On the back label, May describes her vision for this special cuvée.
The Lady May 2012 is a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. The grapes were hand sorted, lightly crushed and naturally fermented in stainless steel tanks. After 2-3 weeks post fermentation skin contact and gentle pressing, malolactic fermentation takes place in oak barrels. The wine is then matured for 24 months in oak from the finest French coopers.
Compared to the previous vintages, the 2012 is more brooding and concentrated. It is intense, deeply coloured and complex. The nose is an alluring invitation of fresh black fruit such as cassis and blackberries, leading on to red fruit, primarily raspberries and cranberries. On the palate, notes of thyme, roast beef and cedar contrast with blackberry tones. The tannins are very fine and well-integrated and will give this wine considerable ageing potential of 12 to 18 years.
Accolades: The 2012 Lady May, as well as the 2011 and 2013 vintages, have all received 95-point ratings in Tim Atkin’s South Africa Special Reports.
Retail price: Lady May 2012 can be purchased online at www.glenelly.co.za and is available nationwide at specialist wine merchants. Recommended retail price: R490.
Suggested food pairings from The Vine Bistro at Glenelly:
- Braised pork cheeks, sweet potato, glazed baby carrots and red wine jus
- Beef ribeye steak, potato wedges and root vegetables with wholegrain mustard sauce
- Fillet of lamb, roast root vegetables, Parisienne gnocchi and thyme jus
ABOUT DAME MAY DE LENCQUESAING
May de Lencquesaing is a member of one of Bordeaux’s oldest wine families, the Miailhe, who owned the famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, Bordeaux. Her pursuit of excellence at this domain over 30 years saw the wines being elevated to some of the best in the world and led to May being awarded Decanter Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1994, among several other prestigious accolades. She also established a Glass Museum at Château Pichon Lalande housing one of the biggest private collections of glass.
May’s wine journey then took her to South Africa where, at the age of 78, she purchased Glenelly Estate in 2003. “Since my childhood in the heart of Bordeaux’s finest vineyards until today, I have travelled the world and discovered the amazing diversity of terroirs. On my first visit to Stellenbosch I knew that this was where I wanted to fulfil my dream of starting a new adventure outside of France. After visiting many vineyards, I recognized the amazing potential of Glenelly Estate. I believe in South Africa’s soil, microclimate and potential for quality wines, and I wanted to continue the French heritage of winemaking in South Africa that goes back more than three centuries.” May replanted the former fruit farm to pristine vineyards, built a state-of-the-art winery, a tasting centre, a museum for her precious glass collection and a school for the children on the farm, and began producing highly-acclaimed wines.
In 2007 she sold Château Pichon to Roederer Champagne and has since devoted her time to the development of Glenelly.
Today, 15 years after she purchased Glenelly, alongside her two grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing, the 8th generation of vintners and wine producers, they are reshaping what was already a great success. Now into her tenth decade, with ten grandchildren and ten great grandchildren, she remains a force to be reckoned with. With her unique experience and vision, and the support of winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain and viticulturalist Heinrich Louw, the future is bright for Glenelly.
After closing to the public for a year due to extensive renovations, the Stellenbosch estate re-opened in late 2016 as a world-class wine tourism destination and boasts a new welcoming French-style bistro, a tasting room with spectacular views and May’s unique glass museum displaying 480 pieces of her collection.
“It has always been my dream to craft the finest Cabernet Sauvignon blend outside of France. At the grand age of 78, I finally discovered Glenelly Estate, in the heart of the iconic Stellenbosch, the ideal place for my vision to become reality. Selected from the highest and coolest vineyard slopes, these grapes confer to Lady May elegance, exceptional depth and ageing potential. This wine is my legacy.” – Dame May de Lencquesaing.