Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere – Want a Glass For That Beer?

Center of the Universe?

Center of the Universe?

We’ve been thinking about small. The sorts of places that don’t really matter much to most people. The kind of place that folks have maybe heard of, but will never find the time to visit. The fact that they are ‘out of the way’ doesn’t make those places less special, or interesting, but it in the eyes of some, it does tend to marginalize their importance.

For most folks in London, Shanghai or New York, South Africa is one of these places. While that doesn’t sit well with us, it is a fact of life. But, we come to realize that once you accept the fact, then the world looks like a much different place. We see the potential of small. The beauty of simple and the promise of an elegant idea that could make a difference.

What’s this got to do with wine, you ask?

Well, we are doing a launch for our new label in the US. But, we’re thinking: Why do the usual? Why beg the people who view us as being from a place that doesn’t matter to pay attention to our wine- let’s talk to people who actually view the world more the way we do. People who have rich lives in small towns, who make a difference every day and yes, who still “Dream Big” from little places.

So, we’re off to Alpine, Texas, not far from Marfa and just up the road from Valentine. We’re looking for Dreamers and people who stand out from the crowd. We have great hope that these folk by Dreaming Big, can Change the World.

Stay Tuned.

The Long Tail for Wine?



There continues to be a lot of discussion in the wine world about “The Long Tail”, and  am sorry to have to go against the prevailing trend and advise that there is no “Long Tail” for wine – at least not in the ‘category killer retailer’ sense.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, a few years back, Chris Anderson, Editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote a book entitled “The Long Tail”:  Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. In this book, he put forth a case that describes the niche strategy of businesses, such as Itunes or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities, and the belief the business done with the small volume items, when taken together, can in fact be larger than the sales of the few high volume items. 

On the face of it, wine would seem to be the perfect “Long Tail” category. Tens of thousands of producers, millions of SKU’s, lots of passionate consumers. However, digging in a bit more, it becomes clear that wine, as a product, does not fulfill some of the basic requrements of being a ‘Long Tail’ product.

The Long Tail requires some fundamental conditions that do not and never will apply to wine – I’ll mention only three of the biggest obstacles to wine being a Long Tail product:


1)    Storage: The issue is obvious here: You can store a music file on a server at virtually no cost, which can be downloaded millions of times at no incremental cost to the retailer (other than bandwith). Even for books, you can build a large warehouse, without worrying about temperature control, regulations and distance from the producer, and hold vast quantities of titles at relatively little cost. Not so with wine.

2)    In the US, anyway, wine cannot be sold to retailers on consignment. This means that the retailer is going to have to invest vast amounts of capital in the skinny part of the tail, which in and of itself, will make the model unsustainable. There are ways around this legally, but they will require complicity from suppliers in subverting the existing distribution model, and I doubt any major importer/winery will want to do this.

3)    Shipping is a nightmare. Hard to do it in the heat of the summer, breakage an issue, heavy, expensive to move. Compare this to a book, or any digital file delivered over the internet and the challenge is very clear.

Amazon has been getting into the wine business since 2005. Amazon defines the Long Tail model, and today when I searched their site, I found wine books, wine accessories, but no wine. For a business that changed the retail scene virtually overnight, that is a long time for nothing to happen- and I suspect a symptom of the fact that it is hard to use their model for wine. 

So, while The Long Tail may be a fantastic model for books, music and software, it doesn’t really work for wine, and I think that to the extent that retailers are interested in new models for the category, this is not one of them. Having said this, there is probably a model for linking together existing inventories of retailers in some seamless fashion as an aggregator, and this is perhaps already being done, but it isn’t quite the same thing.

I relied heavily on this  excellent Wiikpedia article, which spells The Long Tail theory.









“The one with the back label on the front”

[The new Stormhoek front labels. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

[The new Stormhoek back label. Click on image to enlarge etc.]

After many months in development, Stormhoek has finally got its new label designs.

The front label is a fairly classic look [our customers like that a lot]. We had a ball, however, with the back label. Notice how we put both the Blue Monster logo on the back [without any explanation], and also, the Unofficial International “Hacker” symbol. Oh, yeah, we also borrowed the “Change the World or Go Home” tagline from the Blue Monster [Disclosure: gapingvoid is more evil than Microsoft. Just so you know.].

The vast majority who see our wine on the shelf have never heard of us before, have never read gapingvoid, and don’t know us from Adam [The same is true for the vast majority of other wine brands]. So most of the marketing is done on the supermarket shelf. It’s actually pretty intense, thinking about it all.

The funny thing is, people in the trade like the back label SO MUCH there’s already talk happening about Stormhoek being the first wine to have itself stacked on the shelf with the back label facing frontward.

So the Stormhoek hook becomes: “The one with the back label on the front”.

I love that idea… We’ll see what happens.

[UPDATE: Stormhoek Twitter UK Promo:] I’ve been allowed to send sample bottles to anybody who wants one. The deal is, you have to be UK-based, of legal drinking age, and on Twitter. Send me an email if you’re interested, Thanks. Rock on.

(The above was originally posted by Hugh at )

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Looking for a new friend on Facebook ?

big love Banner_1

South Africa’s fastest growing grocer has embraced web 2.0 with a little hand from Stormhoek, and is giving away wine.

Checkers, with over 120 stores in South Africa’s more affluent suburbs, first pioneered the people-friendly service of a wine route in a store. By selecting half a dozen of the better small vineyard wineries in each of the top 10 wine-tourism destinations, Checkers brought the opportunity to explore South Africa’s wine terroir to the wine drinker’s home turf.

Now with Stormhoek, they are helping Facebook to increase its penetration in the South Africa with an on-shelf promotion, on Stormhoek wines, incentivising Facebook memberships with a chance of free wine for a year as well as weekly Stormhoek prizes. You can only win if you’re a Facebook member. If you’re from the the pre-Facebook generation, the entry form shows you how to become a member.

( If you are outside of SA, join our Facebook group for news on any promotions or offers in your country)

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stormhoek pics

[Outside Tesco’s this afternoon, Pinotage and Sauvingnon Blanc in hand etc.]

I’m not sure why exactly, but I always like it when I see new Stormhoek photos on Flickr. Something kinda affirming about it.

So what the heck, I was thinking, Stormhoek is now doing a wee promotion at Tesco’s in UK, where a bottle is going for £3.99 [£1.00 off the usual £4.99], for the next week or two. So maybe there’s an opportunity to have some fun here.

Therefore, the first 500 people, aged 18 or over, who send me a pic of themselves in Tesco’s, holding a bottle of Stormhoek, will receive a £5.00 Tesco voucher from us, to cover the cost of the wine [N.B. These vouchers are not sponsored by Tesco’s. We’re covering the cost out of our own pocket].

And hey, you don’t even have to buy the wine if you don’t feel like it. You can spend the voucher on whatever you want. Nor do you have to blog it. Frankly, I’m more interested in the photos.

And to make it a bit more interesting, we’ll post our favorite pics on the Stormhoek blog, and each week we’ll send a complimentary case of wine to the person who took our favorite picture that week.

[AFTERTHOUGHT:] To get the ball rolling, I’ll send a case of Stormhoek [6 bottles] to the first six people who send in a photo [on condition that you’re over 18 years old, of course]. Again, you don’t even have to buy the wine, nor do you have to blog it.

[CAVEAT:] Though this promotion is in most Tesco stores, it isn’t in all of them. If your local Tesco doesn’t carry Stormhoek, apologies in advance. Drop me an e-mail if this happens and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks.

[P.S. For all you Wine Geeks:] The Stormhoek Pinotage that won the “Best Pinotage in The World” award last year is part of the promotion. Rock on.

This might turn out to be quite groovy, it might not. Whatever. Fail fast, fail often etc. But it’s a cool enough idea to make it worth a try. Feel free to send your photos to Thanks Again.

[This was originally posted on my personal blog,]

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What we’re up to…


We’re crazy busy right now! Hugh and Jason get back from Seattle tomorrow after their presentation at Marketsmart 2007. Apparently it all went very well – Hugh even had the audience clapping along to “the Stormhoek song”!

The rest of us are working on “Project UnderSea” – new packaging for our Stormhoek core range. We’re nearly there and we can’t wait to show it to you! It will be on shelf in June/July 2007.

We’ve also got our Couture launch – rose that tastes better over ice, and some new cartoon labels from Hugh.

The last week in May sees us at the LIWSF (London International Wine and Spirits Fair). So, we’re flat out organising & managing some innovative activity for the Fair: “The Smarter Wine Show”- a mini theatre showcasing some of the leaders of the wine industry talking about innovation in today’s changing world – on the big screen and Wine Fair Live (WFL). WFL is a live website that will be shown on a hugh concert screen in the boulevard. It includes a daily wine gossip blog, pre-recorded interviews with some notable figureheads in the industry, live events and naughty goings-on from the night before. We’ll keep you up to date as we go along!

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Stormhoek in Nando’s Wine Festival


Nando’s launched its wine festival last night, at its flagship store near Vinopolis, London Bridge. They invited Nick, Chris, Andrew, Rob and I and we invited the delightful Jo Mason, head of WOSA, as our guest. The wine festival started on the 30th April and ends on the 13th May and all you have to do is go into a restaurant, buy 2 glasses and you get the rest of the bottle free! Stormhoek is part of the new wine list, “which reflects Nando’s Portugese and African heritage, as well as being outstanding quality and fantastic value for money”. Their flagship restaurant is very impressive and reflects their vision of really upping their game, to be taken as a serious restaurant chain with the consumer at heart.

Andre Morgan from Choice FM – Winner of Hugh’s cartoon, with Chris Smith

Hugh drew a fantastic A3 cartoon for the auction and Andrew won a huge hamper of wine, olives & sauces. There are now over 140 Nandos restaurants in the UK and more around the world – Australia, USA etc.

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Tomorrow’s (and Today’s) Thinking…


Great book out by Howard Gardner, “Five Minds for the Future” and covered by an article in the Times Online today.

* The article discusses Gardener’s theory, that in order to survive and be successful in the 21st century, we have to be able to think in certain cognitive ways in order to deal with the changing world and information technology and overload.

* Times UK today:”He identifies this priceless pentad as: the disciplined mind, schooled in basic subjects such as history, science and art but, crucially, a master of one profession, vocation or craft; the synthesising mind, which can make sense of disparate pieces of information (Gardner identifies this as a key trait of good managers and highlights its importance in the age of the internet); the creating mind, capable of asking new questions and finding imaginative answers; the respectful mind, which shows an appreciation of different cultures; and the ethical mind, which enables one to behave responsibly as a worker and citizen.” He goes on to state that the last two are just as important as the others, due to the evolution of the human species and the fact that culture, money, information etc. cross all borders and are live for all to see on the internet and news.

* Our school educatory system should be reading this, adapting to change and helping kids prepare for the world of today/tomorrow. I and many others believe that one part of this, finance management, should be taught at school. Not only how to manage a bank account, but what a mortgage is, bills one incurs when you move into your own home, ISAs, credit cards and so on. This should be taught in increasing levels of detail from when we are young through to 16/18 yrs of age when we leave school.

There’s so much to comment on and not enough space, so definately take the time to read the article online!

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Moving and Word of Mouth


When i moved to London nearly 9 years ago, i remember the pain of having to find a house and a job and well, all the rest of the stuff that goes with moving across the world!

The Guardian had an interesting article today on The Gumtree’s national marketing push.


I don’t really know when these guys started but they were tiny 5 years ago. Now they’re owned by EBay and are an online classified ad website that spans the UK, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and Poland. And it’s all due to understanding what their “consumers” need and want and also…the power of word of mouth…

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the week wine club


One of Stormhoek’s customers, Harper Wells, is now running The Week Wine Club, the wine club of the popular British news magazine, The Week. It launches today.

If you join you will automatically be entered into a competition to win a wine connoisseur package of fine wine, glassware, storage etc, worth £6000. Offer open to any UK resident aged 18 or over.

A lot of major “upscale” publications have wine clubs in this country, including the national daily papers. I believe The Sunday Times wine club has about 250,000 members alone.

Anyway, good luck to them. Hope they sell some Stormhoek.

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Stormhoek Activity