Honouring a career spanning over 40 years, May de Lencquesaing, ‘Grande Dame’ of Glenelly Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s International Wine Challenge (IWC) awards.
The ceremony took place on 6th July at the Hilton Park Lane in London in front of a sell-out audience of winemakers, restaurateurs, trade and press from across the globe who gave May de Lencquesaing a standing ovation.
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.
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.
Today, 14 years later, alongside her two grandsons Nicolas Bureau and Arthur de Lencquesaing (the 8th generation of vintners and wine producers), they are reshaping Glenelly into one of South Africa’s pre-eminent estates, intrinsically linking themselves to South Africa’s success story. After closing to the public for a year for extensive renovations, Glenelly re-opened at the end of 2016 as a world-class winelands destination, including a hospitable bistro, a tasting room with spectacular views, a stylish new presentation of May’s unique glass collection, and a refreshed wine brand that better conveys the three key elements that define their award-winning wines: power, elegance and balance.
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.”
Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, paid tribute to 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.”
Watch the IWC video featuring the Lifetime Achievement Award presentation, speeches and interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20sK2ePmdEo