South African producer Stormhoek has doubled sales of its wine with a campaign directed at the blogging community.

Blogging – the posting of personal internet diaries or ‘weblogs’ – is one of the biggest growth areas on the internet. Estimates vary: the New York Times and USA Today reckon there are about 10m blogs, while other sources put the figure at three times that.

What is in no doubt is that vast numbers of people post and read blogs, and Stormhoek decided to exploit this by offering bloggers a personalised free bottle to taste and comment on.

Around 100 bottles of the Stormhoek Shiraz 2004 and Sauvignon Blanc 2005 – which both retail at the £5-£6 mark – were sent out via blogger Hugh Macleod and his website gapingvoid.com in May 2005, in Europe only.

The result, says Stormhoek spokesman Nick Dymoke Marr, is that the wine now has a 19% share of the over-£5 South African wine market, and sales went from 50,000 cases in 2004 to 100,000 last year.

The popularity of the brand has also earned it listings in Sainsburys, Asda, Oddbins, Majestic, Waitrose and Somerfield.

‘The campaign has allowed us to go to the trade with an interesting perspective,’ Dymoke Marr told decanter.com. The experiment will be rolled out to the US

in February.

It has also come to the notice of Robert Scoble of Microsoft’s internal innovations division, after arch-blogger Macleod cannily namechecked Scoble. This prompted a reply from the Microsoft staffer, meaning that Stormhoek’s blog campaign is now associated in bloggers’ minds with Microsoft, which has done nothing to harm its cause.

The campaign has now moved on, with Stormhoek canvassing the views of bloggers on everything from bottle colour to label design. ‘We have had over 100 suggestions,’ Dymoke Marr said.

Finally, a press release says, Stormhoek has become the wine of choice for what it calls the ‘London digerati’, with Microsoft requesting it to be served at a ‘geek dinner’ in London in December.

Written by Adam Lechmere