That’s a risky way to start such a post… Nonetheless, how can we define the release of a Mandela wine brand? Yet another opportunistic attempt to capitalize on the icon’s name? Or an altruistic way to develop the South African wine industry?
At least, the business is being run by the family of now 94-years old former President Nelson Mandela (as much as the ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ fashion label), namely Makaziwe (daughter) and Tukwini (grand-daughter). And the patriarch is said to have endorsed the venture, tasted and loved the wines. We’re safe then, aren’t we?
Most interestingly, the wines are fair-trade. Although very common for sugar, coffee, chocolate, cotton, and others, it is rather rare for wine, although some examples subsist (Argentina, Chile, South Africa…). Academic studies are being undertaken on this topic, with pretty gloomy prospects, but you are most welcome to suggest ideas as to why…
Anyway, first thing to know is that House of Mandela is not producing the wine itself. It buys wine from renowned partner wineries that conform to their ‘fairness’ criteria: family-owned, dignity and respect of employees, decent wages, education, environmental and biodiversity respect… And then, they brand it! Second, part of the revenue is reinvested in charities targeting South African communities, with notably scholarships for wine education. As less than 2% of the South-African wine is produced by black South-Africans, there is some room for more equality, don’t you think?
As of now, there are two lines of product from the House of Mandela. The Royal Reserve, exhibiting the family’s crest – a bee, features a Cabernet-Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz (retailer price in the US: 30-50$). And the Thembu line, with colourful tags recalling the shirts of Mr. Nelson, which is made of three reds (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage) and three whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc) (13-16$). And why not completing the flight with a Brut « Methode Cap Classique » (55% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, 12% Pinotage)?
It remains to be seen which are the wines that will reach and please the US consumer (the wines are Fair Trade USA certified), but the illustrious family just launched the brand in February (in New-York, and at the occasion of the fancy South Beach Wine & Food Festival – with an even fancier dinner at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, 185 $ pp, sold out!). This is a new important step in their business development, after launching the brand in the Europe / UK earlier last year. Beyond these two markets, HoM is / will be exporting to China, Africa and Brazil.
For the lucky tasters, please tell us how good you felt enjoying the Mandela wines, as a wine connoisseur or as a committed citizen of the world?
#YR – Yann Rousseau
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