Information station - Winelink

Friday, 2 April, 2004
Lesley Beake for at Cape Wine 2004 are in the habit of giving out information. They have been doing it for seven years, free information being the philosophy of, as well as the purpose of, the Internet.

In a more hands-on approach they manned (and womanned) the gates of South Africa’s biennial wine exhibition, answering questions, giving directions and targeting very specific information. For those in a rush - and there is a lot to see and do at Cape Wine 2004, and only four days to do it in - being informed is critical.

Cabernet Sauvignons retailing at £4 and under?
Kosher wine?
Pinotage producers looking for an agent in Canada?
Canadian agents looking for a Pinotage?

Kevin Kidson, CEO of came up with the bright idea of Winelink, providing a (free) service that networks information. The data combines information that sits on with the research for the show catalogue, which was done by the staff on behalf of Wines of South Africa (WOSA).

‘We ran an information desk at Cape Wine 2002,’ he says, ‘and the idea grew from the pigeonhole system we devised then to put producers in touch with agents and buyers. People said that it would be nice if they could always have this facility and … a lot of hard work later … we unveiled Winelink.

He is surprised and pleased by the number of people who had done their homework before they arrived in the Cape. ‘When we see people paging through the catalogue, we ask if we can help. Very often they have already used Winelink. Overseas buyers and media have a very clear idea of what they want and who they want to see. They research their markets carefully in advance and were made clearly aware of this service by advance press releases on

‘The only limitation,’ Kevin adds, ‘is the accuracy of the data supplied to us. If producers exaggerate, or inflate their information, it does them no good service - it just knocks them out of the market they should really be in, and irritates potential buyers. Our information can pin-point extremely accurately what buyer and seller need to know.’

From a producer’s point of view there are endless possibilities. Nora Sperling of Delheim remarked that: ‘Every single show should have this kind of data stand. It is immensely useful.’

The team on duty at the computer (easily recognizable by their canary yellow wine aprons) have been pleased by this kind of response. Sarah Papenfus was impressed by the sharp focus on both sides of the market. ‘People are doing business,’ she says. ‘They come into the hall each morning with a very determined approach. There is a lot of activity going on in the meeting areas; they are invariably full of serious people doing serious deals.

Michelle Ladewig, who works tirelessly on the design side of the multi-faceted site, says that her most interesting query (so far) was from the man who asked her if she could get him a fridge. ‘We can handle most questions,’ she said, ‘but not quite that one - although we’re working on it for Cape Wine 2006!’

Winelink is here to stay. ‘Marketing Brand South Africa is not a haphazard happening,’ Kevin finishes thoughtfully. ‘Information is the critical path we have to follow.’

For more information on Winelink contact: Kevin Kidson