Courage and Grace in a Glass: House of Mandela Wine Collection

The name Mandela immediately recalls the former president of South Africa, Nelson
Mandela. The face of the fight against apartheid symbolized courage and grace in adversity.

The world mourned his death last year. But the House of Mandela – a wine label created by his daughter and granddaughter – lives on, drawing inspiration from his humanity and compassion.

Mandela’s daughter, Dr. Makaziwe (Maki) Mandela, and her daughter, Tukwini Mandela, traveled to D.C. last October to present their wines. Brought to Washington by Heritage Link Brands, their U.S. distributor, the South African Embassy and the South African Board of Trade, Makaziwe and Tukwini introduced their current releases to wine enthusiasts, journalists and VIPs at a dinner at the City Club of Washington and a luncheon at the South African Embassy.

The daughter and granddaughter duo embarked years earlier on their ambitious venture to bring the world fine South African wine. What made this idea even more remarkable was that no one in the family had any idea how to grow grapes or make wine.

What they did have was a love for their land and a strong sense of family and tradition, stemming from a long line of kings and chiefs. Their connectedness to the land translated well to wine making. The mother and daughter conceived of the House of Mandela to bring the world the beauty of South Africa in a glass.

Using sustainable growing methods and, in some cases, Fairtrade-sourced grapes, the House has produced two collections under the House of Mandela label. The Thembu Collection is the entry-level line, named after their tribe. The Thembu people are known for their hospitality. Fittingly, this line of wine is very drinkable and approachable. The second line is the Royal Reserve, a higher-quality, higher-priced line.

The wine dinner at City Club featured some standouts, many of which are available in the D.C. area. Enjoy!

Brut NV Sparkling Wine
This “Méthode Cap Classique” is a blend of the traditional grapes of Champagne, but with Petite Meunier replaced by Pinotage. Mainly Chardonnay, with 33 percent Pinot Noir and 12 percent Pinotage, this wine could be aged for up to three years. The first pressing of the juice, aka the “cuvee,” and the best juices from the harvest are used. The second fermentation process takes place in the bottle as with traditional Champagne.

Thembu Collection Chardonnay 2012
Produced from grapes grown in the Western Cape, the juice is initially fermented in stainless steel tanks. It then spends time in French oak. The oak aging provides a richness that is not heavy, but can be felt in the mouth. Upon tasting this Chardonnay, I immediately detected apple flavors. It was served with a butternut squash soup, making a superb pairing.

Royal Reserve Chardonnay 2009
Next, we were served the Royal Reserve Chardonnay 2009, representing the classic house style of their best wines, at a higher price point. It was pale yellow with tinges of green. Citrus and lime aromatics were both on the nose and detected as flavors on the palate, along with some pleasant minerality. This wine paired well with the prawns which it accompanied. It will go nicely with any shellfish dish.

Thembu Collection Shiraz 2012
The entrée course paired this Shiraz with a petite bobotie tartlet and frikkadel. Bobotie and frikkadel are traditional South African meat dishes similar in consistency to meatballs. The wine’s blackberry and dark plum flavors, along with a hint of black pepper notes, complimented the savory spices of the meat. This wine is medium-bodied and lends itself well to meat dishe. It is quite drinkable now, but has nice aging potential (up to 10-12 years, I would say).

Royal Reserve Cabernet 2008
The keywords here are spice and structure. This Stellenbosch blend is 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 percent Shiraz and 3 percent Mourvèdre. Look for hints of sandalwood along with black fruits. It is very drinkable now, with aging potential up to 10 years.

Discover House of Mandela wines at these and other establishments in Washington, D.C.:

Rodman’s 5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Bell Wine & Spirits 1821 M St., NW
Salt & Pepper5125 MacArthur Blvd.


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