Modern Revamp: Glenelly Wine Estate

WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo PRODUCTION Sumien Brink PHOTOS Jan Ras

Established in 2003 by world-renowned French winemaker Madame May de Lencquesaing, wine farm Glenelly has been revamped into a contemporary estate.

As you drive into Glenelly Estate, you’re struck by the sight of a rectangular building that seems to jut out of a slope as though it were a tunnel that might lead you beneath the vines and into the soil.

Its angular lines suggest it shouldn’t work, not here in the Greater Simonsberg region, where much of the architecture on the wine farms is steeped in Dutch culture. But then again, the owner of Glenelly, Madame May-Éliane de Lencquesaing, is no ordinary winemaker. The intrepid owner and managing director of iconic Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux, France, for 30 years, she bought what was a fruit farm in Idas Valley in 2003 at the age of 78 to start a new venture.

Twelve years later, in June 2015, she – together with her grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing, and winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain – closed the farm to the public for renovations, which took nearly 18 months. Now fully refreshed, Glenelly has been reopened.

The contemporary vision suggested by the shape of the building has been taken inside, with a nod to May’s French heritage and her love for hand-blown glass, but more about that later.

Sandwiched between the tasting room above and the Glass Collection below is a restaurant, The Vine Bistro, which welcomes you into the state-of the-art winery. “We were looking for that French bistro feel,” says Luke, “hence the style of the tables, but we wanted to bring it back to a South African heritage so we sourced antique Cape furniture.”

The restaurant opens onto a patio with views of the vineyards, but first there is a transitional space between the interior and the patio differentiated with patterned floor tiles and cane chairs. And out on the deck are French-bistro-style tables and chairs. To the right of the patio is an area where guests can play pétanque, a form of boules.

A beautiful view of Simonsberg from Glenelly Winery.

The upstairs tasting area is split into three spaces: a private tasting room, a public tasting room, and a lounge and wine library. It’s a contemporary affair, with angular lines that reflect the building’s exterior. Large windows and glass doors that open onto the balcony afford guests near-panoramic views of the vineyards and mountain. The most impressive feature, however, is the custom-made granite bar. A great deal of granite was removed from the soil when vineyards were planted on the farm, so it was decided to crush some of the stone and incorporate it in the counter, giving guests a link to the soil.

Above the counter hang custom-made glass pendant lamps, reflecting May’s fascination with hand-blown glass. Her private collection is housed on the floor below the restaurant. Luke says the collection holds all sorts of glassware in different states, not just wine glasses, as some may expect. There are pieces that date back to 1 AD.

This is where Glenelly’s magic lies: in its interweaving of contemporary and antique, South African and French, a winery and a museum, New World and Old World. All these elements, even the most unexpected combinations, live together here in harmony.

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