I wasn’t familiar with the wine varietal Pinotage, but after drinking a bottle of 2012 House of Mandela Thembu Collection Pinotage, I’ll be looking more into this grape variety. I was sent the wine from House of Mandela, a South African winery that makes sustainable, Fair Trade wines.

Makazie and Tukwini Mandela, the daughter and granddaughter of former South African president Nelson Mandela, started House of Mandela in 2010. The winery produces wines from the Cape region of South Africa.

I was sent the Pinotage, along with a bottle of Chardonnay and a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the Thembu Collection. All of the wines in this collection are certified Fair Trade, and grape producers are guaranteed a set minimum price for their grapes. Workers in the vineyards are guaranteed a living wage and communities receive funding for development programs.

The vineyards that the House of Mandela works with are bio-diverse, and wines are produced in what they call an “environmentally sensitive and ethically responsible manner.”

I’ve opened the Pinotage and the Chardonnay, and they are both lovely wines. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Pinotage since I’m unfamiliar with the grape, but I enjoyed it. It wasn’t a big, bold red like I usually go for, but it was full of flavor and fruity (but not overly sweet) and very pleasant to drink. Not only would I drink it again, it has me interested in the varietal as a whole.

The Chardonnay smelled like apples when I first stuck my nose in the glass and green apple was the first taste I got from it. It’s lightly oaked and very drinkable. I drank it last night with homemade beef and broccoli, and it held its own with the Chinese food.

In addition to the Fair Trade certification and the sustainability efforts, House of Mandela donates proceeds to the House of Mandela Family Foundation. The foundation “selects students from previously disadvantaged groups to study wine making or viticulture.” Money is also donated to the Africa Rising Foundation that seeks to “relieve the burden of poverty in African communities.”

The wines in the Thembu Collection have a suggested retail price of $14.99 a bottle, in my opinion a very reasonable price for wines of this quality. House of Mandela also creates a Royal Reserve line that’s priced higher and is more limited in quantity.

Have you run across House of Mandela wines yet?

Wine, beer and spirits disclaimer: I am not paid by any producer of wine, beer or spirits to write about their product, although the company may provide me with a sample of the product. I am not a professional reviewer of wine, beer or spirits. I'll write about the product if it's something that I like and if I think the producer is working toward making the product in an environmentally friendlier fashion.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

House of Mandela: Fair Trade wines from South Africa's famous family
The daughter and granddaughter of Nelson Mandela lead the Mandela family in sustainable wine making.