A huge part of our Margaret River wine story is thanks May-Éliane de Lenquesaing, who I am honoured to call Aunty May. I met her when I was just about 12 and she has been a huge part of my life ever since. My family had the pleasure of meeting Aunty May in the 80s when we visited her at her world class Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Bordeaux.
Imagine this 12-year-old girl in awe of Madame de Lencquesaing with a warm, immaculate, magnificent presence. She's a mountain of knowledge, made the front cover of Decanter Magazine voted Woman of the Year in 1994, and has been so meaningful for my family.
Young me visiting Chateau Pichon Lalande in Bordeaux
I have just had the pleasure of chatting with Aunty May again. When I called her on her 96th birthday in May, at the end of our chat, she asked me to call back in a month – and then in a month again. It has become a monthly connection now, what a treat.
Aunty May made my dad a Commandarie de Bordeaux. We have had the pleasure of attending many of her milestone birthdays in France and South Africa, and she invited me to her Legion d’Honour ceremony.
Aunty May and her hubbie, General, came to visit us for Christmas one year, and also visited us at our vineyard on the Margaret River. Another experience to add to my positive psychology list! It was wonderful reminiscing and going through photos and vintage wine books from when I last visited Aunty May in Bordeaux in 2018.
Who would have thought on that first meeting in the 80s that, some two decades later, we would start out on our own wine journey. Aunty May immediately invited me to stay at Pichon to experience vendange (vintage) in 2002. It wasn’t until about seven years ago when Aunty May said to me, "Charmaine, I think it is time you stop calling me Madame de Lencquesaing and call me Aunty May."
Pichon was sold when Aunty May was in her 80s to producer Roederer, and guess what she did. She journeyed to South Africa to create the beautiful Glenelly wine and estate. So, you can believe me when I say that whenever I feel remotely off-piste, I just think of Aunty May and voom I am all good again!
Pichon Lalande is the reason why we planted Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot when we bought our Margaret River vineyard in 1997, with the thought of Pichon’s Bordeaux blend of these four varieties, aka our Margaret River Cabernet Merlot. Growing up drinking wine that has had time to develop is how I fell in love with our UMAMU Estate philosophy: giving wine time to get ready in the bottle before release. It allows the wine to develop character and its story. What I love most is to open an aged bottle that has had time to build that character, to immediately start the conversation, and to taste the development in the glass.
Inspired by Chateau Pichon, we present our Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2017. In that year, we only blended the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, we didn’t blend with Cabernet Franc. This classic blend does especially well in Margaret River with the dark fruit, depth and drive of Cabernet Sauvignon softened by the bright flavours and rounded mid palate of Merlot.
A Bordeaux red blend usually combines two or more of the classic Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec. Each Chateau has their own blend. We did plant some petit verdot but we had to pull it out as it didn't take and turned out to be virus stricken.