When Wine Tells a Family Story

When Nelson Mandela’s daughter and granddaughter, Dr. Makaziwe (Maki) and Tukwini Mandela, considered a foray into the wine business, two factors propelled them to go ahead with the venture. The first was socioeconomic: South African wine is a three billion dollar a year industry, employing 350,000 of its citizens with less than two percent black ownership. The second motivator was storytelling. The Mandela women want the world to know Nelson Mandela as a product of a culture, a descendant of a royal Thembu bloodline, not a phenom of higher-consciousness dropped from the sky.

The House of Mandela has two labels, the Royal Reserve and the Thembu Collection. All the grapes are sourced from family owned fair-trade certified vineyards that respect the biodiversity of the Western Cape. The Royal Reserve wines are supposed to represent the best of South Africa. The label features a bee with tangled vines for wings, a kind of family crest. Nelson Mandela’s tribal name Rolihlahla, means bee. To the Thembu, bees are symbols of courage, compassion and agents of change. The vines are the tangled Mandela family tree. The Thembu wines are for everyday drinking and are intended reflect the hospitality and warmth of the Thembu people. The label features swatches of bright batik prints of Nelson Mandela’s signature Madiba shirts 

If all goes well, Dr. Makaziwe and Tukwini dream of planting vineyards on the Eastern Cape, which the Thembu traditionally call home. “We are people of the soil,” says Dr. Makaziwe. “Making wine is natural for us.”