French woman winemaker to open 30th Nederburg Auction

Wednesday, 10 March, 2004
Jenny McQueen
Sixth French guest speaker to deliver the opening address

For the third time in its 30-year history, the guest speaker at the Nederburg Auction on April 2nd and 3rd is a woman: May de Lencquesaing, the owner of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, one of the most famous estates in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. This will be the sixth French guest speaker to deliver the opening address: others were Paul Bouchard (1987), Jean Hugel (1988), Dr Paul Pontallier (1990), Robert Drouhin (1991) and Christian Bizot (1993).

May was educated in a vineyard environment as her grandparents and her family were Médoc Châteaux owners. She has notched up many achievements in the wine world – as member of the Académie du Vin de Bordeaux in 1988, as president of the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London in 1993, as Decanter magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1994, as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1996, and as author of Magic Wine, which received a Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2003.

May is also the owner of Château Bernadotte since 1997, and more recently forged South African connections when she bought a family estate of some 125 hectares called Glenelly, next door to the famous Rustenberg wine estate, in Stellenbosch last year. However, she is familiar to South African winemakers and stalwart Nederburg auction participants who have been fortunate enough to win the International Wine and Spirit Competition award named after her for the best blended red Bordeaux wine: Beyers Truter of Kanonkop (first-time winner in 1994 and again in 1998) and winemaker André van Rensburg of Vergelegen (the winner in 2001).

May instituted this award in 1994, a year after her stint as president of the IWSC, to mark its silver jubilee and to encourage winemakers to produce good blends. The origins of Château Pichon Lalande estate dates back to the 18th century (the beautiful Château was built by architect Duphot in 1840) when the wine was regarded as the second best in the commune of Saint Lambert (the first being Latour). Today its wine still ranks as one of the top ' Super Seconds'.

Under Napoleonic inheritance laws the Château Pichon Lalande estate was divided in 1856 - but it continued to be managed as a complete entity until 1860. Thereafter the wines were made separately. The Longueville family remained proprietors of the estate until 1925 when it was sold to a company headed by Louis and Edouard Miailhe. The Miailhe family had an impressive portfolio of properties and when Edouard died in 1959, his 55% share in Pichon Lalande remained in co-ownership between his widow and their three children. In 1978, the co-ownership was split and May Eliane de Lencquesaing received the 55% share in Pichon Lalande. She took over the management of the estate, which includes her share, as well as those of the co-owners.

May carried out an ambitious 12-year renovation programme and raised the quality of this Château to one of the highest in the Médoc region. A total of 75 hectares (Merlot 35%, the balance comprising 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc and 12% Petit Verdot) are under production, and only 6 000 cases are produced under their second wine Reserve De La Comtesse, created in 1882 by La Comtesse Virginie de Lalande.

Since 1980 May and her husband General Hervé de Lencquesaing have given great importance to creating links with new markets such as the United States (1980), Japan (1981), Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan (1982), although Europe remained the traditional market. Other markets explored since then include Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and South Africa. In 1983 the Château became a member of the Union des Grands Classés.

Her South African purchase, Glenelly, is situated on the slopes of Simonsberg Mountain, at an altitude of nearly 400 metres, enjoying east-west exposure. 'It is more like Burgundy than the Médoc – the low portion, middle slopes and high slopes, different heights, different soils. This allows one to choose the right spot for each varietal,' she says. Winemaker and oenologist Thomas Dô-Chin-Nam will oversee the development of the Pichon Lalande red blend tradition, but not exclusively a Bordeaux-style wine, and Heinrich Louw, continues to manage the estate. First plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah, totalling nearly 40 hectares, are scheduled to take place in June 2004. 

Nederburg Auction 
Contact: Bennie Howard
Tel: +27 (0) 21 809-7000

Issued by: Jenny McQueen & Associates
Tel : +27 (0) 21 439-5063