Wine – an exciting and boundless journey
10 February 2015
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This is Old Mutual Live. I’m Brad Brown, great things start here, great things start now. It’s a wonderful pleasure to welcome someone back onto the podcast, no stranger to Old Mutual Live. We’ve spoken a couple of times about the Wine Show but I wanted to find out a little bit more about her wine journey. What she does outside of the Wine Show and it’s a great pleasure to welcome back on Managing Editor of Wine Extra Magazine, Maryna Strachan onto the podcast. Maryna, welcome, thanks for catching up with us again.
MS: Thanks for inviting me back, Brad.
BB: Maryna, we’ve spoken lots about the great Wine Show that you guys put on but I wanted to find out a little bit more about you and your journey into wine. Where did your love for wine all sort of emanate from?
My mom influenced my love for wine
MS: Oh, my gosh. My love for wine started at quite a young age actually. My mum had a massive interest in wine and she belonged a wine guild. Well growing up in Bloemfontein, it’s not something that you get very often especially not in those years, so I used to attend these wine guild sessions with her and at the very young age of 14 I started to learn about wines. That’s where my fascination and passion for wines started.
BB: Maryna, I’m interested. Bloemfontein’s not the wine capital of the world. How did that come about with your mum?
MS: I have no idea. It was something that she fell in love with and I’m very grateful that she’s passed on her love and passion to me.
BB: Brilliant and then the Wine Extra Magazine, I mean, you’re the Managing Editor. Where did that start? Is it your baby or is it something you’ve taken on sort of later on in your journey?
My connecting with Wine Extra
MS: Well, Wine Extra was started almost six years ago by the previous owners of the Wine Show and it was basically started with the idea of keeping the exhibitors and the visitors of the wine shows in touch with each other. So communicating between these groups of people on an ongoing basis as opposed to just once a year when the Wine Show is hosted.
At the time it was started as a newsletter and I was involved, well literally since day dos as a lifestyle writer and then took over as editor nine months later. In the meantime we changed the format. It’s a slip page magazine-style format online and it’s really just grown from strength to strength.
Today we’re boasting 22 000 subscribers to the magazine and we’re effectively the only wine magazine in South Africa, which is both sad on the one hand that we’re the only one; but also great for us because somewhere we know we’re doing something right to communicate wine and the passion thereof to our subscribers.
BB: It is a very passionate community and it’s interesting. You talk about being a magazine but you’ve got a very strong online presence as well. How has the sort of changing landscape in the print media space changed what you do with a lot of people moving online? I mean everybody said with the internet, it’s going to kill newspapers and it hasn’t really but obviously the business model has changed a lot.
Online is a big space for us
MS: Absolutely. I think when it comes to general interest publications, I think there’s still quite a large following of people who want the printed hard copy in their hands. I even had just this week, an email from someone requesting to subscribe to a printed hard copy version. It is something that we are considering very strongly, especially being in talks with Tops at Spar, our Wine Show major sponsor.
However, it’s been seen over the past 2-3 years that niche publications such as Wine Extra Magazine just fare better online simply because it is so niche and you know, the general interest is that people want to read it when they want to read it. They enjoy reading it online because it doesn’t clutter up their lives.
So the nice thing about Wine Extra is it’s always there and you can go back to any previous issue. They’re all on our website and you can click through and page through the magazine. So yes it’s a very fine line as to whether you go to print or whether digital media is the better option for a publication such as this, but we’re doing well so far, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain.
BB: Without a doubt. Maryna, as far as the sort of where the South African Wine Industry is right now, you, through Wine Extra and through the Wine Show you’ve pretty much got your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and how things are progressing. Would you say it’s in a fairly healthy state right now?
The wine industry is in a very healthy state
MS: I think our wine industry is in a very healthy state right now and growing in that direction generally. Our wines stand up to the best of the best in the rest of world by any stretch of the imagination. The standard and quality of the wines that are produced locally are second to none.
I think right now, it’s an education for people from Europe and Asia, the Far East and especially America is a very difficult market for most South Africa producers to break into. But as they’re getting to grips with the quality and the cost of our wine which is very, very low comparatively, the popularity of our wines are growing.
Sadly however, there’s a lot of bulk wine exports from South Africa which basically make up a lot of the plonk that you find on the shelves in markets like Europe and the UK and that doesn’t give a very fair representation of the wines that are actually made here in South Africa and that’s a real pity.
BB: Yeah, I guess the exchange rate’s got a lot to do with that as well and let’s just finally wrap things up for someone who’s maybe starting their wine journey and wants to sort of delve a bit deeper. What advice could you give to an out and out newbie who wants to find out more?
Advice for wine newbies
MS: The more wine you drink, the more you’re going to learn. My suggestion is that rather than sticking to one varietal, if you decide that you love Sauvignon Blanc as your white and you are a Shiraz lover as a red, start to branch out. Start to play around with different varietals.
A good way of doing it is to say, “Right, next month I am going to sample Pinotage” and for that whole month, you go to your nearest Tops at Spar or whichever supermarket you visit. You go and select a range of Pinotages from their shelves. Different ones, different labels and from different areas, different terroir, as they say. See what you like because the one might taste vastly different to the other and you might enjoy the one but not the other. But to totally rule out a cultivar just because you’ve tasted one and don’t like it is sad.
Don’t do that. Just give it a chance or another way is to have a wine evening with your friends. Invite a bunch of friends over for dinner and say, “Right everyone, I want you to bring your favourite wine to the dinner” and you open all of the wines and taste all of the wines side by side and have some fun. Wine is such a fun topic and a fun subject that you can do so much with it. But it’s like everything in life, practice makes perfect and the more you practice, the more perfect you’ll get.
BB: Exactly, Maryna Strachan, thank you so much for your time, Managing Editor of Wine Extra Magazine, you can find out more. Just get to wine-extra.co.za. They’re also on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll pop all those links in the show notes to this episode of Old Mutual Live. Thank you for your time today, much appreciated.
MS: Thanks it’s been a pleasure chatting to you, Brad.