The South Africa Sunday Times July 13, 2008

Three Questions to Natalie Mac Lean about Blogs, South African Wines and Food Pairing, an interview by Neil Pendock

William S Burroughs said that, in a revolution, those who control the media control events. Today, wine blogs seem to be revolutionising wine. Do you agree?
Yes and no. Blogs expand the discussion beyond traditional media, allowing more drinkers and self-appointed critics to comment, but do more opinions mean more democracy or more noise? Most blog postings are not edited the way newspapers or magazines are, and while that can be liberating, it can also be a recipe for inaccuracy and unfairness. Overall, I think blogs are a good thing, but there will be a major shake-out in the next year or so. A few wine blogs will lead in visitor numbers because they will have built a reputation for honesty and good content.

South African reds have an unsavoury reputation in the United Kingdom press, with pundits on The Times and Observer railing against dirty, unattractive flavours. Is this the North American perception?
We think of South African wines as one of the tasty bargains in the liquor store, especially your sauvignon blanc and shiraz. They’re well priced in the fiercely competitive category of $10-15 (R78 – R120). I often recommend them in my e-newsletter <> as my “best value” picks. Your pinotage and chenin blanc do not have much visibility here, perhaps because we are already familiar with the other two wines from other regions. I log in to about 50 online wine columns every week, and there hasn’t been nearly as much talk about unattractive aromas here as there has been in the UK.

You have rare talent for matching food and wine. What would you eat with our flagship cultivars, pinotage and chenin blanc?
Chenin blanc is very versatile, so I have paired it with sushi, mussels, Thai dishes and soft cheeses, among many others in my online matching tool. For pinotage, I have put it with roast or grilled lamb and game meats like ostrich. But the combinations are limited only by your imagination, hunger and thirst: chenin blanc, for instance, goes beautifully with my nine-year-old son’s Kraft macaroni and cheese.

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