A wine sub-brand developed from free consumer advice via web logs was launched by Orbital Wines at this week's London International Wine Fair.
The range, which will be available in six to eight weeks, will initially consist of a Pinotage and a Sauvignon Blanc, priced at £6.99 each. The duo falls under the South African Stormhoek umbrella and is aimed at the UK's independent retail sector.
Orbital managed to increase sales of the classic Stormhoek range in 2005 through its move into marketing via web logs, or 'blogs', whereby sales doubled to 100,000 cases last year since 2004. The company launched the marketing campaign by sending 100 bottles of the Stormhoek Shiraz 2004 and Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - both of which retail for £5 to £6 - via Hugh Macleod and his blog in May 2005.
Its share of the South African wine market rapidly increased and its growing popularity earned it listings in Sainsbury, Asda, Oddbins, Majestic, Waitrose and Somerfield.
The company said it wanted to strengthen links with the blogging community by asking for opinions on the look of its next Stormhoek project. "We had loads of feedback when we asked for packaging ideas," said MD Nick Dymoke-Marr. "A common thread emerged, so we ended up with a heavy clear glass bottle with a metallic and minimalist label. We believe it is the world's first open source wine."
Dymoke-Marr said with more than 39 million blogs worldwide, which is expected to grow to more than 100 million in two years, a small brand could become a global micro-brand with a global cult following.
"The stark reality is that if the industry doesn't change in accordance with the market demands, it will, over time, be consigned to the dustbin of history," he said.
Blog creator Macleod said: "With good use of social software, a good winery can make a big difference."
Dymoke-Marr said Stormhoek received 400,000 hits on its blog site in April.
Senior Drinks Reporter