Mid Week Wines Logo

When Bordeaux meets Stellenbosch

South Africa’s wine trade is hard hit at the moment but, as we see here, its winemakers are still producing lovely wine across several price points. Watch out, too, for a new MidWeek Wines venture that I think many of you will enjoy.

Wine producers in most countries have been hit hard by Corvid 19 but few are having such a torrid time as South Africa.

So, it is a pleasure to include a great story (and lovely wines) from that country as the centrepiece of today’s post.

Despite a childhood in the heart of Bordeaux’s finest vineyards, May de Lencquesaing always wanted to start a wine adventure outside France.

After travelled the world’s wine countries, she chose South Africa’s Stellenbosch as the place to fulfil that dream.

She bought the Glenelly estate (close to the Simonsberg Mountain) in 2003 recognising that its position, microclimate and soil offered the potential to continue South Africa’s centuries old French winemaking heritage.

After all, that estate had been owned by a French Huguenot family as long as 300 years ago.

And few knew more about French winemaking than Glenelly’s latest (and current) owner because May-Eliane de Lencquesaing also owned a Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé property in Pauillac until 2006 – Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande.

We shall be looking at the wines produced at Glenelly shortly but, before that, I want to consider a couple of South African wines that sit below the £10 price tag – rather than just above it, as Glenelly’s start point wines do.

We are also introducing today a brand new venture for us – Uncorking MidWeek – and full details appear at the end of this post … Make sure you don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, back to the wine

As happens elsewhere, merlot‘s traditional use in South Africa was as a blending partner for (and softening influence on) cabernet sauvignon but it is gaining traction in single variety versions – especially in the Western Cape’s wine capital (Stellenbosch) and nearby Paarl.  

Smooth and long, the great value 2018 Indaba Merlot (£9.95 at Gerard Seel and 14% abv) delivers dense plum and mulberry flavours supported by good acidity, firm tannin and suggestions of sage, aniseed and cocoa.

And its sister white 

There is absolutely no need to repeat the oft-told story of South African chenin blanc’s rise from mundane producer of “jug wine” to potential superstar status yet offering reliable, modestly priced options too.

Allow 2018 Indaba Chenin Blanc (£9.10 at Great Grog, Edinburgh and 13 %) to do the talking as you sample its textured, red apple and ripe pear flavours and the lees- based richness, zesty lime acidity, and vague nuttiness that accompany them.

But now for Glenelly

As well as producing excellent Bordeaux wine, the Lencquesaing name is also famous for the collection of antique wine glasses assembled by Madame May-Eliane.

One Glenelly range is named as a tribute to that “hobby” and we start by looking at the cabernet franc varietal it contains.

Less intense and softer in both flavours and tannins than cabernet sauvignon, this variety can be aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, earthy yet silky and smooth.

It was, however, the bold fruit in 2017 Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Franc (£12.95 at Lea and Sandeman and 14%) that struck me first, driving through medium bodied, ripe loganberry and cherry flavours that are interwoven agreeably with the wine’s long, savoury finish, well-judged tannin, lively acidity and hints of aniseed, coffee and bell pepper.

Moving next to cabernet sauvignon

While that cabernet franc was lovely, the intensity of the cabernet sauvignon puts it half a point ahead – especially as it contained clear cut, European influences rather than an over-reliance on the fruit elements that can characterise some Southern Hemisphere reds.

Concentrated and powerful 2016 Glenelly Glass Collection Cabernet Sauvignon (£13.15 at Great Grog and 14%) leads with plum and blackcurrant flavours embellished with a suspicion of sweetness, good acidity, firm tannin and menthol, vanilla and clove components too.

And of course the Flagship wine.

We cannot, of course, end without a look at the estate’s top of the range red that is a lovingly assembled blend led by cabernet sauvignon.

However, it also incorporates at least three of Bordeaux’s “usual suspects” including the petit verdot that, as I recall it, often plays a part in Chateau Pichon Longueville Lalande wines.

I reviewed (and relished) Glenelly’s top of the range wine back in April and this what I said then. which is equally valid now.

“[I must also pay] ….. tribute to this exquisite Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch that brilliantly captures those slightly green aromas and graphite background that seem so typical of claret country but so elusive outside it.

While not cheap, wine of this quality from, say, Bordeaux itself would attract a much higher price.

Enjoy then the heady cocktail of aniseed, cola, nuts and cocoa that 2013 Glenelly Lady May (£33.25 at Frontier Fine Wines and 14.5%) allows to mingle with its intense bramble and plum fruit, good acidity, skilfully balanced tannin and very long finish.”


As part of the continuing development of MidWeek Wines, I am starting a new feature next month – participative Zoom tastings in your own home.

To do so, I have teamed up with Diana Thompson who runs Wine Events Scotland and who is not only an experienced wine trade professional but has also been a pioneer in virtual tastings as this press article from April reveals.

Diana (who also runs a Facebook Group called Edinburgh Uncorked) and I will jointly present the sessions but bookings will be via her website – www.WineEventsScotland.co.uk.

Each (usually evening) event will feature six, previously declared, wines (three whites and three reds) and before the event, participants buy as many of them as they want from the one or two retailers concerned.

Even though the wines will probably stay sound for up to 72 hours, Drink Aware advice should govern how many bottles people open on the night.

However, participants will also have the opportunity to purchase a Wine Saver Pump with stoppers which can keep opened wine fresh for up to 2 weeks.

Once the session begins, we sample and discuss each wine online and there are opportunities for participants to score and provide feedback on the wines.

Joining in costs £10 per household and bookings for our first events (on 7 and 14 October) open today on the www.WineEventsScotland.co.uk. website.

Reflecting the joint nature of these hour-long tastings we have called them “Uncorking MidWeek” but, be warned, places are limited and can sell out quickly.

As part of her other activities Diana is also running a Fizz Festival on-line and one of its five sessions (on 6 November) will also be a joint one with MidWeek Wines.

These should be gloriously informal occasions that not only help people make sound buying decisions but, more importantly, we hope will be enormous fun too.

Join us again on Monday when we look at the latest promotions and, of course, discover the current Top Tips.  

Share the Post:

6 Responses

  1. Morning

    Just love the idea of the zoom tastings but slightly apprehensive to sign up until I know the balance of white / red and varieties that you will be introducing from both M&S and Tescos. I see that their similar tasting on 2nd October of Lidl’s reds already lists all those wines..??

  2. Fair enough. Details should appear soon but we just need to iron a couple of things out with retailers. Keep an eye on the Wine Events website in particular.

  3. Hi Brian, interesting read with the cornflakes as always this morning.
    Have been on a few of Diana’s Zoom tasting and thoroughly enjoyed them. Always informative and relaxed with some great plonk thrown in. Now looking forward to you jumping in here and adding a new element. Sign me up……

  4. As you say, Jim, £8 is a good price for a wine that won silver at both the International Wine Challenge and International Wine and Spirits Competition – yet I would still put it behind at least a couple of LBV’s from the same producer (Symington) with a similar list price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts



2 Glasses of wine