Wine and social issues generally don’t mix, but don’t tell that to Makaziwe and Tukwini Mandela.
The daughter and granddaughter of Nelson Mandela have founded their own line of wines, and recently passed through South Florida to promote them. From a winemaking standpoint, the venture is a serious one: The ladies commissioned Master of Wine Lynne Sherriff to select small, high-quality family wineries as their fruit sources. The lineup begins with the entry-level Thembu Collection, named for the ancient royal tribe of the Mandela ancestors. There is a trio of Reserve wines, and a method champenoise sparkler as well.
When it comes to their social agenda, it’s no surprise that the Mandelas are motivated by a sense of community spirit. They wanted to enter the wine business because they perceived that a very small number of black South Africans were involved in the industry, and even fewer women. They place great importance on sustainability, fair trade and biodiversity, and are particularly dedicated to improving the plight of impoverished vineyard workers.
And what about the wine? In the Thembu Collection, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is bright and crisp, with prominent acidity and ripe flavors of citrus and melon---a delicious accompaniment to shellfish and finger food. The 2012 Chardonnay sees six months of oak aging, and has a tart, forceful mid palate filled with notes of green apple, melon and pear; it makes an excellent match for fish and white meat dishes. Both wines are good values at $12.
Among the Reserve wines, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) has 12% Shiraz and 3% Mourvedre included in the blend. The classic Cabernet nose displays blackberry and cassis; the texture is ripe and medium-bodied, with hints of spice highlighting the dark berry fruit. It pairs very well with red meat, stews and barbecue.
One-third of the production of the House of Mandela comes to the United States, and is distributed in Florida as well as a number of states around the country. The wines represent a unique opportunity to drink well and contribute to a good cause at the same time.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press; his second book, Moonshine Nation, is forthcoming from Lyons Press in June 2014. For more information, go to amazon.com