Jonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray reviews our recent Spectator Winemaker’s lunch with Nicolas Bureau of Glenelly Estate

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The lunch sold out almost the minute it was advertised and it was an expectant and – let’s be frank – thirsty bunch of Spectator readers that gathered ever-promptly in the boardroom last week to meet Nicolas Bureau from Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Nick is not only the export director of Glenelly but also the grandson of the estate’s founder, the formidable and greatly celebrated May de Lencquesaing, the 94 year-old former owner of Ch. Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux and one-time Decanter magazine Woman of the Year.

Guests tucked into some 2018 Glenelly Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay as Nick told us that in the 1990s his grandmother had instituted a Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for Best Blended Red Wine in cahoots with the International Wine and Spirit Challenge and discovered that it was nearly always won by a South African wine. She realised that great wine could be made in the Western Cape and fell in love with the country, vowing one day to make wine there herself.

Finally, in 2003 – at the grand old age of 78 – Mme de Lencquesaing found what she was looking for, a fruit farm in Stellenbosch, next door to Rustenberg, which she promptly bought. As Nick explained, she didn’t want an existing vineyard, she wanted a blank canvas. She dug up the fruit trees and planted vines – Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Over some fine Forman & Field smoked salmon we moved from unoaked to oaked Chardonnay, with the 2017 Glenelly Reserve Chardonnay. Readers positively lapped this up, relishing the oak-fermented, lightly oak-aged fruit. The two wines made a fine contrast and the room was split as to which was the favourite. It was generally agreed though that they were underpriced at £14.50 for the unoaked and £19.85 for the oaked.

With a main course of cold roast beef, we enjoyed the ridiculously drinkable 2016 Glenelly Glass Collection Merlot (£14.50) and agreed that Merlot gets too bad a press and that this was a corker, full of richly flavoured succulent fruit, beautifully structured and with fine tannins. We moved onto the 2016 Glenelly Glass Collection Syrah (£14.50) which was equally applauded, being classically Rhône in style, full of white pepper and spice with plenty of fresh acidity.

We finished with the 2012 Glenelly Lady May (£37.75), a Bordeaux-style blend of immense style and panache, as befits a wine named after the former proprietor of such a mighty Pauillac claret. Crammed with blackcurrants, black cherries and spice, it’s deliciously sophisticated and fulfilling and is only now just beginning to show its class.  It has years ahead of it for sure.

The bottles were drained and given a unanimous thumbs up around the table. It was a convincing display from Nicolas Bureau and, as a Frenchman, he was a witty and disarming advocate for the wines of Glenelly in particular and South Africa in general. He has promised to come back with more recent vintages next year.

In the meantime, readers can purchase the above delectable wines from Private Cellar by calling Laura Taylor on 01353 977997 or emailing her at

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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