May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, owner of Château Pichon Longueville Lalande in Bordeaux, has purchased an estate in South Africa and plans to eventually produce her own wine there.
De Lencquesaing bought the 310-acre Glenelly estate near the end of last year. Located on the slopes of Simonsberg Mountain, the former fruit farm is at an altitude of 1,200 feet, with east-west exposure. Rustenberg, one of South Africa's top red-wine producers, is next door.
"It's more like Burgundy than the Médoc," said de Lencquesaing. "You have the low portion, middle slopes and high slopes—different heights, different soils. This really permits us to choose the right spot for each varietal."
Pichon Lalande winemaker Thomas Dô-Chi-Nam will oversee the property's development. The first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah, totaling nearly 100 acres, are set to go in this June.
De Lencquesaing said the wine will continue the Pichon Lalande tradition of being a red blend, but will not be exclusively a Bordeaux-style wine. "It will be a marriage between France and South Africa," she said, noting that they are planting Syrah, which has emerged as one of South Africa's leading grapes.
The purchase represents the end of a long search. "I have wanted to buy a vineyard outside of France for 20 years," said de Lencquesaing, who came close to deals in Long Island and Washington during that time. But in the end, de Lencquesaing, after making several trips to the country, felt the pull of South Africa.
"The evolution of this country is positive. If we can help in their economic emergence, then that is a good thing, don't you think?" she said. "The human aspect is very important to me."
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