Stormhoek Pinotage 2005 wins Top Pinotage Award at IWSC

Tuesday, 8 August, 2006
Orbital Wines
Virtually unknown South African winery, Stormhoek, co-owned by Orbital Wines in the UK and South African wine marketer Graham Knox, has won the top international prize for Pinotage in its first major competition.
The Stormhoek Pinotage 2005 has won The KWV International Trophy for Pinotage for the best Pinotage at the 2006 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), held recently in London.

Now in its 37th year, the London-based IWSC is one of the best-supported competitions internationally and is regarded as the premium show of its type in the world. Nearly 6 000 entries were received from 73 countries, up from 5 000 and 57 respectively from the 2005 competition. Opposition for the trophy this year included heavyweight SA Pinotage producers such as Ashbourne, Fairview, Kaapzicht and Simonsig, with Kanonkop and L’Avenir having won the award in the past. The Stormhoek Pinotage retails at £5.99 in the UK whereas all the other Pinotage finalists in the competition are priced in the £10 – 25 range. The champion Stormhoek Pinotage, made from Wellington-grown fruit, is on sale throughout the UK, USA and South Africa.

The special interest in this story is that, even six months ago, few people in SA had ever heard of Stormhoek. A year ago, few anywhere in the world had heard of the brand. The winery has taken a very innovative route to market its wines, which has challenged conventional wine-marketing practices worldwide.

British blogging consultant, Hugh MacLeod, well known for his Gaping Void cartoon website, was the brains behind the Stormhoek low-cost blogging campaign, launched in 2005. 100 Free bottles of Stormhoek were sent to regular bloggers on his website and they were asked to blog their comments and experiences with the wine. Using the strapline ‘Freshness Matters’, the wine took off like an out of control fynbos fire. A similar campaign was launched in the USA and the fire roared even fiercer. There are now over 225 000 Google links and the website has over 350 000 hits a month, more than any other wine producer in the world.

Recognition for the unique Stormhoek campaign soon followed when it won “The Best Consumer Campaign” at the annual Drinks Business Awards announced at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, beating the big hitters like Diageo, Gallo and Chivas Regal.

But, more impressive is sales growth. In less than two years it has grown annual sales to ±100 000 cases (12 x 750ml) and now accounts for 17% of all South African wine sold in the UK in the over-£5 category. In the last six months alone Stormhoek has achieved over 2 500 retail listings in the USA.

As Graham Knox ruefully comments, “Up to now most comments in the media and elsewhere have been about the success of Stormhoek’s campaign - use of the web, social software and networks, etc. Little has been said about our wines so we are all very proud that our Pinotage has won this award. Which illustrates that, ultimately, your marketing campaign can only ever achieve ongoing success if the quality of your product delivers value to your customers.”

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