Glenelly: Traditional French fare with an SA twist

Glenelly: Traditional French fare with an SA twist

By Bianca Coleman: If there are wine estates in Stellenbosch – or anywhere in the Western Cape – that don’t have wonderful views, I don’t know about them. Personally, anywhere there are vineyards is beautiful to me. However, Glenelly is blessed with particularly gorgeous scenery.

Even the state-of-the-art cellar has been designed with large windows which reveal the breathtaking vista to the workers within, and this to the best of my knowledge is the only such one.

It therefore makes perfect sense that the farm has now opened its Vine Bistro, and revamped the tasting room one floor above it, to take advantage of the magnificent setting in both locations.

Glenelly is a relatively new farm in a region which has been producing wine for hundreds of years, and is the vision of the inimitable May de Lencquesaing who began a new adventure on South African soil in 2003 at the age of 78, with decades of winemaking experience under her belt. Thirteen years later, alongside her two grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing, the eighth generation of vintners and wine producers are reshaping what was already a great success. With her unique experience and vision, and the support of the winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain and viticulturalist Heinrich Louw, Glenelly is moving forward.

After closing to the public for extensive renovations during last year, the Stellenbosch estate has reopened with the aforementioned bistro and a tasting room, and a new presentation of Madame’s unique glass collection. More about that in a moment.

The bistro is classy and elegant in a typically French manner, with tiled floors and wicker chairs at tables that capture the essence of Paris, and opens out onto a patio shaded with umbrellas. According to Lady May: “Wines are made to pair with food, so introducing a culinary experience at Glenelly was the logical next step on our journey. My grandchildren initiated this project with Christophe Dehosse, the ideal chef to look after this exciting new venture – French, but very established in South Africa, mastering haute cuisine but cooking simple dishes, getting his inspiration from traditional bistros of his homeland while experimenting with African and Mediterranean ingredients. He sources local organic farm products and serves very seasonal food.”

On our media visit – following an extended and informative tasting of the estate’s wines led by O’Cuinneagain, complemented with family history and anecdotes from De Lencquesaing – we sampled a range of starters, served communally. These included Franschhoek trout gravadlax with baby beetroot and a sweet dill dressing; seasonal white asparagus with a lemon dressing, tomato, herb and onion salad and a parmesan crisp; tuna tartare on a vegetable salad with samphire and a lemon and soya dressing; and duck and pistachio galantine with fig chutney, cornichon pickles and toasted brioche.

For the main course, we had fillet steak with baby carrots and fennel, mushrooms and mashed potato. All courses were paired with Glenelly wines of course, but the Lady May 2008 Reserve with the steak was a very special treat.

A selection of desserts was also served to the group as a whole – a warm biscuit oozing chocolate with wine poached pears and chantilly cream; canelé – one of the most traditional French pastries you can hope to get – with fynbos honey and rooibos tea ice cream bringing a South African flavour to it; a trio of ice cream and sorbets for those wanting a touch of freshness to finish; and a platter of glorious local artisanal cheeses for the ones with savoury palates.

It wasn’t open on that day due to Lady May’s high standards and it not yet being perfectly ready, but having previously visited the glass museum I can safely assume that once its new incarnation is ready for public consumption it will be nothing less than spectacular, and definitely something unique as far as winelands attractions go.

The extensive private collection of glass is located beneath the winery, where you’ll be taken on a journey through 2000 years of glassmaking, with the 160 pieces of the collection each telling a story. The room has intentionally been painted in a charcoal grey for the beautifully illuminated glasses to take centre stage. You will see Roman pieces, 17th and 18 century glasses, and works by Daum, Salvador Dali as well as American and South African contemporary artists.

* Tasting Room and Glass Collection: Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10am till 6pm, Thursdays to Saturdays till 7pm and Sundays till 3pm.

Email, or call 021 809 6446.

The Vine Bistro: Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch and Thursdays to Saturdays for dinner.

Email, or call 021 809 6444.

Glenelly is in Ida’s Valley, Lelie St, Stellenbosch.