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The most famous name in South Africa is about to become one of the most famous names in South African wine. It seems ordained. The House of Mandela, with a smattering of selections just launched across Canada, could also draw valuable attention to a national industry struggling to gain more ground globally against bargain competition from such countries as Chile and Argentina.

Rest assured, it's not a cheesy commercial-licensing venture destined to insult the legacy of Nelson Mandela. Quite the contrary. It's the brainchild of Dr. Makaziwe and Tukwini Mandela, the former president's daughter and granddaughter, respectively. Founded in 2010, the company even earned an ancestral blessing before the anti-apartheid icon passed away at 95 in 2013.

Tukwini, in Toronto recently with her mother to promote the rollout of the Thembu Collection Sauvignon Blanc at LCBO stores, told me the budding concept got its public unveiling at Nelson Mandela's home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province years ago. The occasion: his 90th birthday, attended by 1,000 well-wishers, who were treated to some of the first experimental blends. "He tasted the wines and he enjoyed them," Tukwini said of the host, whose preference did, I might add, veer more toward sweet wines. "He thought that it was a great project for us to be involved in." There was just one grandfatherly concern. "He would ask, 'Are you making a good salary? Can you support yourselves? Then fine.'"

The labels of the Thembu Collection, an easy-drinking line named after the Mandela family's royal lineage and value-priced at under $15, are emblazoned with colourful graphics inspired by the trademark Madiba-clan shirts worn by the man of the people. "My grandfather didn't like suits," Tukwini said. "He felt constricted in a suit, and he wanted something that was far more laid back." I suspect the screwcap seals would have been right up his alley.

Tukwini, 40, who like most black South Africans did not grow up with wine, said she had to hone her palate on the job. The family was initially drawn to the grape as a way to promote greater economic opportunity for blacks, who account for the majority of the 350,000-member workforce in the wine industry and are largely confined to the hard-slog manual labour in the fields. Just 1.5-per-cent of wine-business owners are black in an industry that's been around for 350 years, and that number "is not growing," she said.

House of Mandela does not own a winery, let alone a fancy château. It operates as what the French would call a négociant firm, placing its stylistic stamp on wines that are farmed, blended and bottled to their specifications on contract at several estates. With the help of a London-based master of wine, an Afrikaner winemaker and a Swedish-born quality-control manager, the daughter-and-mother team – an active businesswoman and former executive director of the Development Bank of South Africa – met with 33 wineries before settling on three: Thelema, Hartenberg and Fairview (the latter of Goats do Roam fame).

"It's a challenge being a black woman in the wine industry because you're not necessarily taken seriously," said Tukwini, whose grandmother, Evelyn Mase, was Nelson's first wife and supported the revolutionary through law school. "It's still a very male-dominated industry. Some of them wanted to give us the dregs and produce the best for themselves. And we said 'No, thank you.'"

Though the number of black winemakers and restaurant sommeliers is growing, if from a tiny base, Tukwini is under no delusions about the most important measure of equitable change. "Our ultimate goal is to have a lot more black people who own wine businesses, because that's the only way that empowerment is going to take place and that's the only way that transformation is going to take place." How will that happen? I asked. "The first step for us would be government involvement and government support, because the wine industry is very capital-intensive, and that's the reason why most wine businesses fail, because they don't have the financial support to be able to move forward."

As owners, Tukwini and her mother have committed to international Fairtrade certification for most of their wines, ensuring reasonable wages and labour conditions, among other things. (The upper-end Royal Reserve wines produced in tiny quantities will eventually bear that label.) They are also donating a portion of profits to three charities, including the St Mary's Foundation, which provides private-school endowments for underprivileged girls.

While the House of Mandela was named in honour of an entire, and very large, family, for Tukwini it seems a particularly gratifying and politically enlightened career tribute to a grandfather she did not get to meet until she was eight – separated by the bullet-proof glass of a prison the year visitation rights were granted to people under 16.

"My friends at school were, like, 'You're a liar, you could never be related to Nelson Mandela in any way, shape or form,'" she said. "It was not something that we went out and publicized."

She's publicizing it now.

House of Mandela Thembu Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (South Africa)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $12.95 in Ont.

Nice. Rounded, fruit-forward sauvignon blanc that comes across like a restrained New Zealand. It lands somewhere in between the punchy New Zealand styles. With subtle flintiness – not grassy at all. $13.99 in B.C., $14.99 in Sask., $11.99 in Man., $14.29 in N.B., $14.99 in N.S.

House of Mandela Thembu Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (South Africa)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $14.99 in Sask.

Here's a quaffable, medium-full-bodied cabernet with bright berry character, subtle minty overtones, gentle tannic grip and subtle toastiness. $11.99 in Man.

House of Mandela Thembu Shiraz 2014 (South Africa)

SCORE: 87 PRICE: $13.99 in B.C.

Full-bodied and redolent of plum and blackberry, with a subtle Rhône-style-syrah note of white pepper. Juicier and tighter around the waist than most of its jammy Australian counterparts at this price. $14.99 in N.S.

House of Mandela Thembu Pinotage 2014 (South Africa)

SCORE: 87 PRICE: $14.29 in N.B.

The big-game, animal character of South Africa's love-it-or-leave-it signature red variety has been put on hold here. Medium-full-bodied, with a suggestively sweet core of dark berries, it's supple and clean and should please fans of similarly priced Argentine malbec.

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