House of Mandela Wines
House of Mandela Wines. (Photo: http://www.houseofmandela.com/)

In November 2006, in the heart of Johannesburg, Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and civil rights icon, valiantly stated, “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

On Thursday December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela took his last breath.

As the entire world finds the strength to overcome the loss of one of the most prolific global rights leaders of our time, his daughter and granddaughter, Dr. Makaziwe (Maki) Mandela and Tukwini Mandela respectively, have committed to keeping his legacy alive.

Towards this end, these women joined forces to create the House of Mandela wine collection in June of 2010. With Nelson Mandela’s blessing, the Mandela women set forth on an effort to share the family’s rich heritage and historic legacy through the distinctive medium of fine wines. Their mission was to create wines that embrace the energy and soul of South Africa while encouraging the spirit of unity, family and tradition that Nelson Mandela wholeheartedly stood for.

“My grandfather had a sense of place and family. Everything he’s done he learned from somewhere and someone else, and that’s the part of the Mandela family story that we want to tell to the world,” shared Tukwini Mandela in a recent interview.

Symbolism of heritage in House of Mandela wines

The Mandela family legacy dates back to the late 1800’s. They originated from a small village along the Mbashe River nestled in the Eastern Cape known as Thembuland. Their abaThembu lineage set in place the family’s foundation of courage, diversity, royalty, and culture, which has been passed down from one generation to the next. These principles are reflected in the six wines found in the House of Mandela Royal Reserve and Thembu Collections.

Because the Mandela family believes the bee is one of the supreme givers of life, each of their wine varieties in the Royal Reserve Collection includes a unique design of a bee on its label, with branched wings that symbolize the many branches of the Mandela family tree. Tukwini Mandela shared a story about a swarm of bees that followed Nelson Mandela to his ancestral home in the Eastern Cape the day he was released from prison in 1990.

“That was quite significant for us because it meant your ancestors are bringing you good tidings, welcoming you home,” Tukwini Mandela said.

This bee design was also incorporated into a family heirloom crest and given as a special present to the ladies’ father and grandfather for his birthday.

“It was quite important that the bee be very prominent in the Royal Reserve collection,” Tukwini Mandela added.

The Royal Reserve and Thembu Collections

The Royal Reserve Collection consists of a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. A sparkling wine is also featured. Although very different in taste, each wine variety is accented with a touch of aromatic fruit flavor and palatable oak.

Produced in the heart of the Cape region of South Africa, there are a myriad of divine flavors that make up the Thembu Collection. One would classify this group of wines as dignified, yet humble. The Thembu Collection includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and a Pinotage. Additionally, a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc are featured in this collection. The Thembu bottle designs were created to reflect Nelson Mandela’s love for vibrant, colorful dashiki shirts.

With the proceeds of sales, Nelson Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter plan to create a scholarship through the House of Mandela Foundation that will assist disadvantaged students from different ethnic groups in developing talent and expertise in the wine industry.

Carrying the family legacy forward

Dr. Makaziwe Mandela and Tukwini Mandela are both honored to carry the Mandela legacy forward in this manner.

“We hope that other families will also be inspired to reflect on their own family legacies and the positive contributions they can make in their own societies. Also, we hope that one day other black families in South Africa and around the world are inspired to explore ownership within the wine community,” Tukwini Mandela added.

As the wine movement continues to grow and the Mandela women find their place within it, they are grateful for the support they have received worldwide. The opportunity to showcase positive accomplishments that are rooted in the continent has been inspiring.

“Africa is not just about poverty, not just about wars, not just a dark continent,” Tukwini Mandela shared, “it is a very bright, warm continent that can produce the best of what the world wants.”

For more information, visit www.HouseofMandela.com.

Wanjira Banfield writes about travel and entertainment for theGrio. You can find her at  www.wanjirasworld.com and follow her on Twitter @wanjirasworld.