With a career spanning over 40 years, May de Lencquesaing, the grande dame of Glenelly Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Wine Challenge. The award was given at a ceremony in London earlier in July, and the audience of winemakers, restaurateurs, trade and press gave her a standing ovation.
Hailing from one of Bordeaux’s oldest wine families, the Miailhe, with winemaking roots that go back all the way to the end of the 18th Century, May de Lencquesaing took the helm of the family business in 1978. She had visited South Africa a number of times and recognized its potential to grow world-class wines so, in 2003, when she was 78, she bought Glenelly Estate in Stellenbosch. She replanted the former fruit farm to pristine vineyards, built a state-of-the-art winery, a tasting centre, a museum for her precious glass collection and a school for the children on the farm, and began producing a highly-acclaimed range of wines.
Today, 14 years later, together with her two grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing (the 8th generation of vintners and wine producers), she has continued to invest in the estate. After closing for a year for extensive renovations, the wine estate was reopened at the end of 2016 and now has a bistro, a tasting room, and a refreshed wine brand.
May de Lencquesaing, on first hearing she was to receive this prestigious award, commented, “I am honoured to be chosen by the IWC for this award. Wine has always been an incredibly important part of my journey throughout my life, and it’s humbling to be recognised in this way. Growing up and living in Bordeaux has been a great chance to learn and better understand wine and the people who make it. Although investing in South Africa in my late 70’s was certainly a real challenge, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to create and couldn’t pass on the opportunity. It has been my absolute joy to see Glenelly thrive and prosper as I envisioned all those years ago. It’s such an exciting time for South Africa and we are so happy to be part of an international wine culture where our wines are taken as seriously as the most revered wines in the world.”