Although it’s been some time now since House of Mandela wine launched, Nelson Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter remain aware that many wonder given their famous last name and historic lineage, why a wine label?
This week, Tukwini Mandela introduced the wine to a room full of journalists at the Harlem location of the South African restaurant, Madiba (Nelson Mandela's Xhosa clan name.) It was like she knew the question would come before it was even asked – likely because in past interviews it usually has been. Tukwini explained that through the wine, she is able to tell the story “of our family without politicizing.”
Tukwini acutely notes that most already know the main points about Nelson Mandela and his political contributions to South Africa and the symbolism he provides to the rest of the world. Tukwini, however, noted that he is not a “mythological figure” as she proceeded to humanize him. Who better to do so than someone who knows him first as grandfather?
She is also aware that her grandfather’s name has been commercialized over the years (some relatives have sold merchandise bearing Nelson Mandela’s image). Still, this is Tukwini and her mother, Makaziwe Mandela’s way of making their mark – particularly in a world with very few Black women owners. As a result, they contribute to an industry that employs many Black South Africans (the industry in South Africa has some 400,000 workers) while dually helping inspire other women in South Africa to pursue entrepreneurship. The wine also has a charitable connection.
Tukwini and the House of Mandela work with two organizations. The first is St. Mary’s Foundation, which is a private school in South Africa that helps young girls from disadvantage backgrounds obtain a private school education. The other is My Life, a foundation that helps rehabilitates impoverished children living on the streets of her country.
Despite initial concerns about associating alcohol with the Mandela name, Tukwin says both she and her mother came to see the value of helping introduce to South African wine – namely in the United States. As Tukwini explained, wine is a sophisticated drink. Wine is also the sort of alcoholic drink you have at dinner. It serves as a conversation starter. It is not something to be sipped on the corner, though I did become aware at the luncheon that South Africans love cognac as much as my Southern uncles and I do.
Wine is also about custom and tradition – both shared values by the Mandela family.
As for the wines we had, they were delicious and paired well with the mouth watering South African cuisine provided by Madiba. I will not put on airs: I am no one’s wine connoisseur. For the longest time, my palette was limited to “two buck Chuck” versions of the wines Mariah Carey referenced in song lyrics. So I am no one’s Olivia Pope in terms of expertise, but even I could appreciate the hints of citrus in the M'hudi Isong Sauvignon Blanc. The same goes for the richness of the House of Mandela Royal Reserve Shiraz.
The label launched in 2010, starting with the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. All of the grapes come from South Africa. The line has since expanded including the House of Mandela’s own special blends, which are available nationwide.
For more information, visit www.HouseofMandela.com.