The International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 has gone to May de Lencquesaing, the owner of Glenelly Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. She has been involved in the wine industry for 40 years in both France and locally.
The award ceremony was held in London three weeks ago, and Madame de Lencquesaing received a standing ovation for her achievement from winemakers, restaurateurs, trade, and media attendees.
The media release I received from Hazell Public Relations and Wine Consultants provided the background to the Lifetime Achievement Award: ‘The IWC Lifetime Achievement Award honours a person within the trade who has shown dedication and commitment, and has made a significant difference to the global wine industry. Now in its 34th year, the IWC is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest and most meticulously judged wine competitions’.
Her background is described as follows, beginning in France: ‘May de Lencquesaing is a member of one of Bordeaux’s oldest wine families, the Miailhe, whose place in the wine industry dates back to the end of the 18th century. Owners of the famous Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, they also owned or partly owned several other great Bordeaux châteaux, including Siran, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Palmer. Having spent many years travelling the globe with her late husband General Hervé de Lencquesaing, May took the helm of the family business in 1978. After a hugely successful tenure as head of Pichon Lalande, where she became affectionately known as ‘La Generale’, she sold the Château to Champagne Louis Roederer in 2007 to concentrate on her new wine estate in South Africa’.
‘May de Lencquesaing, always a pioneer, had visited South Africa several times and recognised the great potential to grow world-class wines with the right microclimate. With this belief, in 2003 aged 78, she started a new adventure on South African soil when she bought Glenelly Estate on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain 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’.
Madame May and her grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing (the 8th generation of vintners and wine producers) are reshaping Glenelly Wine Estate into one of South Africa’s top wine estates. In 2016 Glenelly re-opened as a world-class winelands destination, after having closed for renovations for a year. They re-opened with a Bistro headed by Chef Christophe Dehosse, a Tasting Room with spectacular views, a stylish new presentation of May’s unique and valuable glass collection, and a refreshed wine brand that conveys the three key elements of their award-winning wines: power, elegance and balance.
On first hearing that she was to receive this prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, Madame May 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’.
Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, paid tribute to Madame May at the Awards ceremony: ‘The winner of our Lifetime Achievement Award today is often described as ‘formidable’, both in English and French. Now into her tenth decade, with ten grandchildren and ten great grandchildren to match, she remains a considerable force of nature… Anyone who has been lucky enough to drink a bottle of the legendary 1982 Pichon Lalande and to see the foundations she laid at the Château will recognise what she achieved in Bordeaux; anyone who has tasted recent vintages of her Glenelly Lady May red will recognise what she has achieved in South Africa. Few people make such a mark on two continents‘.
In the photograph above May de Lencquesaing holds her International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award, flanked on the left by Tim Atkin (MW and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge) and Charles Metcalfe (co-founder of the International Wine Challenge). Her formidable CV includes the following Awards and accolades: President of the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) (1993) and subsequently Vice President for Life; Decanter Woman of the Year – first French woman to receive the award (1994); Médaille de la Jeunesse et des Sports, from the Ministry of Youth and Sports (1999); Médaille du Mérite Colonial (2003); Edouard Cointreau Award for her book “Vivant, je suis!” dit le vin (2004); Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bacchus Society of America (2005); ArtVinum Award in the category ‘Lifetime Achievement’, Stuttgart, Germany (2007); Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (2011); Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole (2016); Honorary Membership of the Pinotage Association for her life-long exceptional contribution to the world of wine (2017); Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) (2017); and member of the Academy of Science, Letters and Arts of Bordeaux.
Glenelly Wine Estate, Ida’s Valley, Stellenbosch. Tel (021) 809-6440. www.glenellyestate.com Twitter: @GlenellyEstate Instagram: @GlenellyEstate
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Twitter: @ulmenstein Instagram: @chris_ulmenstein