Wine farm focus: Glenelly
We took our trip on a warm Wednesday afternoon. Sitting beautifully on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, the Glenelly Estate is absolutely breathtaking. Driving up the path to the entrance, I didn’t know what to expect. I have obviously been wine tasting before (who hasn’t?) but this felt different to “the same old”. It was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday afternoon. People were sitting in the restaurant chatting up a storm, taking in the stunning views and having some world class wines. We met up with Luke, Glenelly's winemaker, and started our journey for the day.
While walking down to the glass museum, Luke started off by telling us about the history of the farm and how May de Lenquesaing, lovingly known as Lady May, purchased the farm back in 2003. Lady May has been involved in wine making and the industry for decades having owned Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, a Grand Cru Classé from Pauillac, Bordeaux previously. The glass collection is something I have never seen before. There are pieces dating back to the 1st century right up until the 21st century! If you’re planning on doing a wine tasting, lunch or even dinner at Glenelly, do yourself a favour and visit the glass museum. There are 1 or 2 pieces from literally everywhere and if I am not mistaken, Luke mentioned that glass from Australia and Swaziland is the only glass not contained in the collection. Having a glass museum on a wine estate seemed odd to me at first but then I learned how glass and wine share many attributes like the fact that both are art forms in their own right and that sand and heat are major components in the production process. The best part is that we drink wine out of glass and it is a pair that is best enjoyed together. Suddenly the glass museum wasn’t odd anymore.
From the museum we made our way to the fermentation hall. Grapes were coming in and being sorted, de-stemmed and pressed. The set up is simple - no chemicals are used in the cellar and water is recycled. As I mentioned earlier, it was a warm afternoon but we could not feel the heat inside. Walking around the hall and taking in the beautiful views, we learnt about how well thought out the construction of the building was. It was built completely out of concrete with the water pipes running throughout the structure. The coolness and energy saving is attributed to this. Luke led us down into the cellar. It was very dark and way cooler than upstairs. Hundreds of wine barrels lie there, all filled with wine, on their fermentation journey. Luke endeavors to make the wines as naturally as possible making no use of acidification and only using wild yeast fermentation.
While we were upstairs we got to taste freshly pressed chardonnay juice - it was sweet and tasted exactly how I expected it to. Luke gave us a crash course on how warm fermentation produces tropical flavours while cold fermentation brings out the minerality and steely flavour of the grapes while we walked over to a barrel in the cellar that had wine fermenting from 3 days prior. Can you imagine my excitement when we got to taste it? Slightly different to the freshly pressed juice, this wine had started fermenting and those familiar wine flavours were coming through. We then moved on to a barrel where the wine had been fermenting for 14 days. The wine was clearer and tasted much drier than the two stops previously. Next we headed up to the tasting room.
The tasting room is on the top floor of the winery and overlooks the lower slopes of the Simonsberg mountain, the perfect backdrop to tasting Glenelly’s fine wines. What a pleasant experience. We sat and chatted about the wines, community, our student days and everything in between. We probably could have sat there for longer if we didn’t have to make our way back to Cape Town but anyway, let's get into the wines!
First up, we tasted the Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay - the wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks which has no influence on the flavour of the wine the way oak barrels would. The wine is more minerally, fresher, has bright acidity with flinty flavours coming through.
For comparison, we tasted the Barrel Fermented Private Reserve Chardonnay. There were warming aromatics of apple pie that filled the nose while citrus tones of lime and lemon followed after. It was great to taste the final product after tasting the wine in juice form as well as during fermentation. This chardonnay was softer and rounder.
Next we tasted the Le Rosé de May - the 2021 Glass Collection Sulphur free Rosé. Luke makes use of the tannin of honeybush as the preservative in this wine. Slight hints of the honeybush come through, giving the wine the smallest touch of sweetness. Fresh berries and beautiful acid balance. Lovely.
Moving on to the reds, we started with the Glass Collection Syrah. The wine is presented in a traditional bottle with spicy, peppery and jasmine flavours peeking through.
The Glass Collection Merlot would pair so well with food. Dark berries and spicy plum come through with well balanced tannins.
From the Merlot next was the Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine had the typical cabernet texture that everyone knows and loves but isn’t too big on the palate and overbearing as some would experience a cab sav to be. Lovely dark fruits are tasted on the palate.
We moved on to the signature red blend of Glenelly, the Estate Reserve. Wow. Just wow! This old school claret is complex but not in a way that you’re overwhelmed. Luke put it so nicely when he likened a blend to an orchestra. It's great listening to a violinist alone but it's so much better when they’re part of an accompaniment.
Lady May is what we closed the day off with. A classic Bordeaux blend. Well balanced with dark fruits coming through.
We have put together a mixed box of the Glenelly Glass Collection wines for you to enjoy at a discounted rate of R599.99. Valid only for the month of April, this is a deal that you don't want to miss.
If you've made it this far, you're an absolute champ! I am so excited that we have started this journey and look forward to telling you about all the wine farms we visit along the way.