Glenelly Estate Starting to Reach Its True Noble Stellenbosch Potential…

The Glenelly Estate is a beautiful winery buried in a little corner of the Idas Valley in Stellenbosch. I have been meaning to visit for many years to understand the essence of the winery and their philosophy but somehow always seemed to cross paths with CEO Nicholas Bureau or else their long time winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain at tastings in London.

The property was famously bought in 2003 by Madame May de Lencquesaing of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande fame in Pauillac, Bordeaux, with a vision to transform the property into one of the preeminent fine wine producers in Stellenbosch.

With vineyards planted on near virgin granitic rich soils, Glenelly Estate had the opportunity to map out a varietal path that completely suited the style of wines they were looking to make. There would certainly be none of the red tape and restrictions Madame May had become so use to in Bordeaux. With sizable plantings of Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, Glenelly have all the building blocks for making some impressive wines.

In February 2020, I finally visited the estate for a lengthy tutored tasting with Cellar Master Luke O’Cuinneagain. Nicholas and Luke generously opened an impressive array of older wines to illustrate not only the development of the wines in bottle but also the evolution of the Estate’s winemaking and their ongoing quality improvements. Undoubtedly these are wines made in a more classical, restrained style and the French heritage is undeniable, radiating out of every glass and making all the wines in the range excellent gastronomic friendly expressions.

My conclusions after my tasting remain firmly that the hard yards have been completed and that the best years still lie ahead for this estate and its high quality wines. Glenelly Estate is definitely one to keep a very close eye on in the future.

White Wine Flights:

Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2011, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Super complex notes of terpenes, bruised yellow citrus and earthy root veg. Bright crunchy tangy acids make for a delicious mouthful that’s evolving beautifully. Very pleasurable glassful.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2012, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Dusty wet chalk aromatics melt into struck match, bruised peach, papaya and ripe lemon peel. Lush and layered, plenty of leesy quince, honeysuckle, ripe pear purée and a smokey, glycerol finish. Showing a lovely harmony.

(Wine Safari Score: 88/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Unwooded Chardonnay 2019, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Youthful and bright, this shows vibrant notes of cream soda, dusty green honeydew melon and dusty crushed limestone. Lovely texture and fleshy mouthfeel, finishing with notes of melon, green apple and subtle minerality. Lovely gourmet wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2012, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Like its unoaked sibling, this shows a hit of reduction, dried mint leaf, peppermint and lemongrass. Equally plush and textural, this has a broad glycerol mouthfeel, savoury lemon peel fruit, subtle oak spice and a hint of peppermint crisp on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 90/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Grand Vin 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Taut and restrained aromatics, this shows plenty of minerality, wet chalk, white citrus and limestone nuances. But the palate blossoms to show abundantly sweet textured flesh, lemon herbs and a vibrant energetic finish with impressive persistence.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 12.5 Abv.

Cool and restrained, this displays plenty of stony minerality layered with lemon and herbs, lemon cordial and dried mint leaf. Palate is savoury and fleshy with bruised yellow orchard fruits, ripe papaya and dry fynbos. Concentrated, mouth filling and impressively persistent.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2015, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

This nose is expressive and exotic with savoury bruised yellow fruits, melted wax and incense notes. The palate shows sweet herby glycerol weight in a more oxidative frame. The texture is sleek and the balance finely poised with plenty of concentration and tangy acids on the finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2016, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

This vintage shows hints of ripe lemon and herbs, dry fynbos, honey on white toast and subtle mint leaf complexity. Super focused concentration, bright tangy acids and impressive length, you can see the pedigree potential of this wine. The aromatics are a little reticent but the quality is clearly apparent. Impressive for a hot, dry vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2017, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

A more steely expression with purity and clarity. Fine notes of lime peel, lemon cordial and wet limestone and lemongrass herbs make for a fresh, vibrant aromatic profile. The hallmark concentration is there with glycerol, textured intensity of lime cordial, green apple and cedar spice on the finish. A lovely mouthful from a good vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Chardonnay Reserve 2018, WO Stellenbosch, 13 Abv.

Lifted and expressive with dried fynbos, peppermint tea and herbal spice mixed with bruised white peaches, lemon iced tea and lemongrass herbs. Bright and zippy, this wine shows plenty of overt energy, crystalline citrus pastille fruits and a seamless creamy balance. Delicious expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Wine Flights:

Cabernet Sauvignon driven wines with supporting components of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot laced with a small percentage Syrah a la Claret in the good old days of Bordeaux.

Glenelly Estate Reserve 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv. 15%

Syrah in the mix, this smells and tastes of classic old school Bordeaux with sweet tobacco leaves, herbal spice, tannery leather, cigar box and sweet savoury black currant and black berry intensity with a clear vein of graphite. Creamy and cool fruited, this is plush and textured with earthy black orchard fruits, lead pencil, graphite and a sweet piquant cedary finish. Drink now or cellar for a few more years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Reserve 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

Dark and broody, this wine shows plush opulence with aromatics of coffee beans, black plum, cedar spice and pronounced graphite intensity. Soft and sumptuous, this has plenty of overt early drinking generosity laced with black chocolate and piquant spicy tobacco notes. Ready to go now, but certainly no rush.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2010, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot

Rasping dusty chalky aromatics of classic Cabernet Sauvignon, crushed gravel, graphite, tannery leather and grilled herb spice. Super youthful at 10 years old, this wine speaks of pedigree. Polished and finely balanced, this has oodles of old world classicism, spicy cedar, piquant black berry and silky suave focus. Very impressive but will certainly get better with further ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2013, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

Again, plenty of classicism and mineral driven tension, but this lovely wine shows more energy, greater linearity and superb focus. Saline cassis, tart black cherry confit and earthy damson plum complexity shows this is a serious fine wine. Sleek, pure and generous but retaining elegance and restraint, seamless blissful harmony and pin point focus. Beautifully complex and integrated, this is definite Grand Cru Classe quality!

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Glenelly Estate Lady May 2014, WO Stellenbosch, 14.5 Abv.

74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

Intricate yet generous, this youthful expression shows creme de cassis, violets, peppermint crisp milk chocolate and dark spicy plum. Plush and sweet fruited, the 2014 is forward and showy, revealing the plushness achieved at Glenelly in all of their reds. With its sweet tannins, fleshy glycerol mouthfeel, fruit concentration and bruleed earthy coffee bean finish, this fine wine is ready to go now however, extra tertiary development will only elevate this wine further.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande Bordeaux Masterclass ~ 1985 to 2012 with Winemaker Nicolas Glumineau…

Another wonderful masterclass today tasting over four decades of Chateau Pichon Lalande, a Chateau that has only had four owners since its establishment in 1850. The estate consists of 89 hectares of vines with an average age of 35 years old, planted at a density of 9000 vines per hectare with a mix of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, Cabernet Franc 7% and Petit Verdot 3%. 

The Chateau is currently experimenting with organic and biodynamic viticulture and with detailed top soil and sub-soil mapping, which they hope will help increase the Grand Vin quality even further.

Flight 1 – Reserve de la Comtesse (First vintage produced in 1973)

Reserve de la Comtesse 2012 – 90+/100

64cs, 35m, 5cf

Piercing sweet rich nose shows black berry, espresso, buttered brown toast, bruleed oak spice with vanilla pod spice. Soft textured palate with plenty of spice, pithy black currant, black cherry and soft accessible acids. Plush, gentle, suave tannins carry to an elegant lacy finish. 

Reserve de la Comtesse 2011 – 91/100

43cs, 49m, 8pv

Big concentrated dry vintage to follow the block buster 2010s, but not without its difficulties. Plenty of dusty, leafy cassis fruit with pronounced coffee bean spice. Dark, deep core with black chocolate, violets and wood spice. Dense, masculine palate, power with elegance, tannin frame and dry extract concentration with fine, fresh integrated acids on the finish. Still young and worth cellaring further.

Reserve de la Comtesse 2009 – 92+/100

53cs, 38m, 9cf

Soft sweet, perfumed seductive nose of violets, black berry confit, kirsch liquor, and earthy, savoury foresty red currant fruits. Palate is soft, suave, fleshy, and accessible, ready now and showing a lot of charm and finesse for the price. Sweet ripe tannins and an elegant finish. Lovely Pauillac expression.

Flight 2 – The Grand Vin Selection

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2012 – 93+/100

59cs, 28m, 8cf, 5pv

Similar to the 2012 Comtesse, but chock full of bruleed black berry, espresso, mocha spice and plump caramelised plums. Suave, broad, and oh so elegant and fine. Almost like draping silk over your tongue. Accessible, seductive and seamlessly balanced finish. Beautiful lighter style vintage.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2009 – 98/100
75cs, 20m, 5pv

Sweet black berry, kirsch liquor, seductive fragrance and violet perfume. Oak is definitely receding revealing the most opulent, tantalising fruit purity, crisp acids and plenty of elegance. Sweet cassis, buttered brown toast, chalky, powdery marshmallow tannins. Massive full mouthfeel, reaching every corner of your palate. So impressive, so alluring, a real block buster. Leaves you weak at the knees. An icon vintage for sure.

Chateau Pichon Longueville 2003 -93/100
65cs, 31m, 4pv 

Rich, savoury, ripe, opulent nose with forest fruits, confit, stewed fruits and hints of Christmas cake. Some game meat notes developing, tannery leather, sweet tobacco and plush, sweet earthy red currant confit length. Soft opulent fleshy wine with mellow acids, slightly chalky tannins that are slightly drying on the finish. Holding up well but perhaps time to start drinking if you have in your cellar. 

Great tasting today with one of Bordeaux’s best, Nicolas Glumineau

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1996 – 97/100

75cs, 15m, 5cf, 5pv

Sweet classical nose that screams Cabernet Sauvignon expression. Violets, cedar, sandalwood spice, talc, sweet tobacco box, and mint / Eucalyptus leaf. Almost exotic in style. Palate is modern, almost new world, with hints of cinnamon spice, pithy cassis, spicy cherry skins, mineral tannins and hints of graphite. Youthful, dense and powerful. Such a beauty. Still masculine, foursquare but showing more generosity year by year. One to buy!

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1995 – 95/100

45cs, 40m, 15cf

Evolved nose of sweet herbs, earthy savoury leathery garrigue and tobacco. Cigar box, sandalwood, pencil spice, graphite and savoury red berry fruit. Big rich Cabernet cassis concentration, marshmallow powdery tannins, starting to resolve nicely, with fine balance and classical elegant cedary depth. 

Chateau Pichon Longueville 1985 – 96/100 

Beautiful lifted nose of cedar, stalk spice, dusty gravel and cassis leaf with just a hint of capsicum spice. Peppery and complex, this wine speaks of a different era in Bordeaux production. Palate treads lightly, showing plenty of mint leaf, cedar, black berry spice, grilled herbs, graphite minerality, and drying gravelly tannins. Still holding its shape beautifully, this is yet another 1985 that has turned out to have surprisingly impressive longevity with a classical framework. Just the right amount of chalk/stalk/capsicum savoury melange. Lovely food wine.