For the first edition of Ama Culture, Art South Africa‘s new weekly lifestyle column, Christine Lundy looks at Glenelly Wine Estate’s famous Glass collection.
Glenelly Wine Estate’s famous Glass collection epitomizes its owner’s admiration for the produce of the earth; how to turn the poorest matter, sand, into a luxurious piece of art.
Unlike Lewis Carolls’ novel, Glenelly’s fascination is not simply about reverse and mirrors, but comparisons, analogies between two humble materials – namely sand and grapes – transformed into beautiful, unique, precious and sometimes delicate Glass and wine.
Founded by French visionary May Eliane de Lencquesaing, previously the owner of the Pauillac winery Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Glenelly is located in the historical Idas valley of Stellenbosch, close to the original gardens of Rustenberg where Simon van der Stel planted some of the first vines.
May de Lencquesaing’s energy is contagious. It is no surprise that in 1994 Decanter wine magazine selected her as “Woman of the Year”. She received the Legion d’Honneur in 1996 and was made Officier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2011, a high mark of recognition by the French government. She started her winemaker ‘career’ at the tender age of 50, turning around the family estate by reaching new levels of quality and excellence. For nearly 30 years she travelled the world, not only to promote her Chateau but the whole Bordeaux region, as a result becoming an unofficial ambassador of Bordeaux wine. This challenge was clearly not enough, and she decided to invest in South Africa, purchasing the Glenelly Estate 2003, then a pear and plum farm, previously under the ownership of Jack Garlick, son of the department store founder John Garlick.
After the sale of the Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande she focused all her energy in her new estate in the Southern Hemisphere. Based on her vast experience, she believed that South Africa has the potential to produce some of the best wines in the world. She specifically chose Glenelly for the quality of its terroir. Her investment decision was also enthused by the French Heritage started three centuries ago. It was her way to participate tothe economic development of South Africa, starting with the people working in the Estate.
Her values are conveyed through her glass collection. She started one in France, which was sold with the Chateau. She then decided to build a new one in South Africa to share her passion: stories of glass over the ages starting with some early Roman pieces, glasses from all over the world showcasing beauty and supporting local talent. There are over 100 pieces currently exhibited, and this is just the beginning.
The Glass collection is reflected in Glenelly wines, and not just through their labels. To carry on with the analogy, wine is also a simple produce from the earth, a simple fruit turned into delectable nectar. However, like the Glass, it requires the intervention of men to become a luxury product. The Glenelly wines indeed display Madame’s vision (as everyone calls her), ‘South African with a French touch’. Glenelly’s winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain, a South African trained in France, has translated her vision, crafting elegant expressive unique wines made in a French style but which reflect their origin, their South African Terroir.
Glass, a film commissioned by Glenelly and directed by Gavin Elder, explores further the many parallels between Glass and Wine.
To visit the Estate, taste Glenelly award winning wines and see the Glass Collection:
Glenelly Estate, Lelie Street, Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch
Tel: +27 (0)21 809 6440
GPS Co–ordinates: S33°55’6.1″E018°52’45.1″