I have had a crush on South Africa for as long as I can remember. Imagine my delight when I got an invitation to meet Tukwini Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, for the House Of Mandela wine launch/tasting. The Mandela’s are South African royalty and I was absolutely here for it!
The tasting was held at Madiba Harlem. How's that for a fully immersive South African experience? I had been to Madiba in Brooklyn, NY several times before, but the Harlem location is about 10x the size, equipped with theaters and all. It was amazing to taste traditional South African foods – such as Mozambique prawns peri peri with yellow rice and raisins, pap and vleis and bowerowors (white cornmeal with lamb chops and farm sausage) oxtail and samp and an amazing dessert – malva pudding! It sounds crazy to say, but my favorite things on the menu were the breads – mainly because they reminded me so much of West Indian breads. There was AMAGWINYA – a fried dough (similar to what West Indians would call fried bake, or Johnny cake) and another sweet baked bread – they were both delicious.
As for the wine, I’ve had my fair share of wine in life and I must say that the House of Mandela wine truly is exquisite. The owners took their time to select the right process and types of wine to put out. Even more cool, the wine industry has a significant impact on South Africa’s economy, contributing 3% to the GDP and in 2010, $4 million was spent on Fair trade wine, in which for each bottle sold, 50 cents goes back to the farm workers to use for social and economic investments.
We started with the Deep River Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay. This hybrid is 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay, providing a unique blend. I actually really enjoyed this opening wine and could imagine drinking it regularly. It was well balanced and had a very clean taste.
I tasted the Royal Reserve Shiraz which we had paired with the oxtail. The shiraz was smooth and had a spicy kick after which was fine with me but some found that they needed to follow up with water. I’m not a huge red wine drinker so this wasn’t my favorite, though it was tasty.
The Thembu Collection Sauvignon Blanc was by far my favorite. It was citrusy, with tropical fruit and melon character, but it wasn’t too sweet – it was very crisp, clean and refreshing. It’s the type of wine that I could imagine drinking by itself on a hot summer afternoon, to set a chill vibe. It’s really just perfect for my palate.
It was an experience, it was delicious and I am honored. I would highly recommend truly House of Mandela wine any time you see it on a shelf. Look out for our South Africa project this summer as well. You are in for quite the treat!