Now with the launch of House of Mandela Wines, his daughter and granddaughter hope to add fine wine to the list of associations.
It's a sign of just how far both the wine industry and the country have come since 1994, when apartheid was dismantled and Mandela was elected the nation's first black president.
"The wine movement is growing," said Tukwini Mandela, his granddaughter. "More and more people are experimenting with wine beyond spirit drinks. And there's a large segment of the black community who is interested in wine now."
The family launched their blends of red and white grapes this week during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Prices range from about $12 to $50 for their royal reserve collection.
The screw-capped bottles are adorned with an image of a bee, the company's logo that symbolizes compassion, sharing, humanity and "one who is brave enough to challenge the status quo."
"We are praising our ancestors," said Tukwini Mandela. "We are telling the story of our family and who we come from with these wines so it's only natural that we would use the name Mandela."
The line includes red, white and sparkling wines. Unique to South Africa, House of Mandela also features a pinotage that is a Mandela family favourite.
"It's a reflection that South Africa is maturing in terms of its wine product," said Makaziwe Mandela, daughter of the political reformer.
House of Mandela Wines will donate a portion of its proceeds to charitable groups working to resolve education, health, culture and energy issues in South Africa.
"There is a lot of synergy between wine and our family," said Makaziwe Mandela. "But when you look at how the vine grows, the vine doesn't grow in a straight line. It twists and turns, representing the twists and turns of life. Life is not a straight line. What we are proud of is that out of adversity we helped create a wonderful experience."