stormhoek blue monster reserve

<a href=””><img alt=”Blue%20Monster%20spritzed.jpg” src=”” width=”125″ height=”400″ border=”0″/></a>
<em>[Yon standard pack shot. Indeed.]</em>

I mentioned previously that I would be announcing my “Next Big Project” sometime today, the 17th of September.<a href=””>The Financial Times beat me to it.</a>. “Social Object”, Baby:
<blockquote><strong>Microsoft launches a tipple for techies</strong>

Tonight, a select group will gather in a bar in London’s Soho to quaff a crisp, South African white wine bottled in their honour.

The hand-picked guests toasting the new vintage are not, however, wine connoisseurs but techies. The gathering marks the launch of the Blue Monster Reserve label, created by winery Stormhoek for Microsoft and its employees.

Own-label wine and personalised bottles have become increasingly popular in the corporate world, particularly among investment banks, as gifts to clients and offered to guests of corporate events. The companies hope the corporate vintages will add an air of class and sophistication to their image.

But unlike customised wine bottles given by banks and law firms to clients, this label did not originate in Microsoft’s corporate communications headquarters.

Hugh MacLeod, a cartoonist, blogger and marketing strategist for Stormhoek, created the Blue Monster image after getting to know Microsoft employees.

Mr MacLeod met these “Microsofties” through his day job. “We sponsored a series of ‘geek dinners’ for bloggers and techies in the US and the UK,” he said. “I met a lot of people from Microsoft through these dinners, and they all said the same thing: we want to change the world.”

That notion of a kinder, gentler Microsoft is at odds with its cut-throat corporate image. Critics have accused the software giant of abusing its dominant position and of stifling innovation in the industry. In 2003, the European Commission found Microsoft guilty of uncompetitive practices and levied a record €497m ($689m, £342m) fine. The result of its appeal against that decision is due on Monday.</blockquote><a href=””><img alt=”microsoftbizcard220border.jpg” src=”” width=”200″ height=”124″ border=”0″/></a><blockquote>The cartoon of a sharp-toothed blue creature and its tagline, “Microsoft – change the world or go home”, has now been adopted by some Microsoft employees and fans as a symbol of the company’s innovation.

“People see Microsoft as a big, bad corporate monster,” Mr MacLeod said. “Yet all the Microsofties I’ve spoken to say they just want to make great products and do good works. It was obvious that Microsoft had to get better at telling their story.”

“Wine is a social object, and so is the Blue Monster: they both inspire conversation,” he said. “And we thought the cartoon would look really cool on a bottle.”

Steve Clayton, chief technology officer at one of Microsoft’s UK affiliates and a nine-year veteran of the company, said Blue Monster reminded people that Microsoft “has a sense of fun and humour”.

Mr Clayton has been at the forefront of the Blue Monster movement: he uses the image on his business card and is the administrator of a “Friends of Blue Monster” Facebook group.

“[Microsoft’s HQ] has been very supportive of us using the Microsoft name alongside the Blue Monster image,” Mr MacLeod said. It makes sense; they’ve been around for about 30 years and are trying to reinvent themselves to embrace a new generation.”

Blue Monster-branded bottles will be available only to Microsoft and its affiliates. “We have no intention of selling the product outside Microsoft,” said Jason Korman, Stormhoek’s chief executive. “The wine itself only went live last week, and already we’ve had massive interest from different parts of the company.”</blockquote><a href=””><img alt=”bluemonsterwine002.jpg” src=”” width=”162″ height=”250″ border=0″/></a>
<em>[A bottle of Blue Monster Reserve sitting on my desk. Click on image to enlarge etc.]</em><blockquote>Mr Clayton readily admits the Blue Monster movement, despite his involvement, is outside any influence from Microsoft: “[The cartoon] has encouraged a whole new series of conversations by people who are passionate about Microsoft, both internally and externally. Blue Monster is a community which has developed its own distinct identity.”

For Mr MacLeod, the Blue Monster represents a revolution of sorts. “We started an underground movement within Microsoft, and we knew one day the guys in suits would finally take notice. That moment has finally arrived.”

If so, it will be marked in true internet-era style: not with an act of anarchy but a clink of glasses. </blockquote><em><a href=””>[Blue Monster backstory here.]</a> <a href=””>[Blue Monster blog archive here.]</a></em>

The wine is not a commercially available product, just a wee “social object” for geek dinners and people inside the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft’s <a href=””>Steve Clayton</a> and I are still working on the final details of how we’re going to get the wine to people who want it, but for now, we’re just limiting its availability to [1] people who belong to the <a href=”″>”Friends of Blue Monster” Facebook group,</a> and [2] geek dinners we’re attending and/or sponsoring.

Personally, I like this idea because it directly connects to a lot of different things I’m interested in. “Social Objects”, Microsoft, cartoons, Stormhoek, Marketing 2.0, corporate-reinvention, geek dinners etc etc.

Hopefully, other people will like it, too. Watch this space etc.

A special thanks to all the groovy cats inside Microsoft who lent their support to this project. Rock on.

[This was originaly posted on my personal blog, gapingvoid.]<br><br>

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What’s been happening?

Everyone from my mom, to friends and customers have been emailing and asking “Why aren’t you posting as much as you once were?”

Fact is, we and many other bloggers have come to realize that its hard to do all the stuff you need to do every day to make a living, AND spend the time needed to do cogent, hopefully interesting posts. But, we have all resolved to actually post what has remained in draft on the blog software and even Graham has promised an occasional post on the latest developments in the cellar.

We’ve also been waiting for our long overdue redesign of the blog, which you see here and we hope will make the blog easier to read and follow. Thanks to our buddy Lee for all the hard work on making this happen.

For those of you that were thinking that we were sitting on our butts, perhaps over-indulging in fruits of our labor (you’d be right only about part of that). But, there’s been lots happening and I’ll gradually bring you up to date on all of it.

We did a film in partnership with Brintex for the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, called “Smarter Wine, The Movie”. We reckon a few thousand people saw it over the course of the Fair and oddly, we’ve been getting steady requests from competitors for the DVD, so we thought it might be of general interest:

Many retailers, importers and other friends kindly lent some time to the effort. The video was produced by the one and only, Colin “Spielberg” Kennedy.

YouTube Preview Image

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Thanks to Business 2.0 and Tom McNichol, for a really nice article in the August 2007 issue about some of our online work.


The article has now been published online by and can be viewed here.

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Business Week Video


“BW Small Biz Editor Nick Leiber talks to Greg Verdino, marketing blogger and chief strategy officer at marketing firm Crayon, about how small-business owners can use new, low-cost Web tools to market their products and services.”

Greg’s nice enough to mention Stormhoek and Hugh.

Here’s the Vid

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Nothing Matters if You Can’t Put it in The Bottle


We all take things for granted: Turning on the light switch, filling up at the pump, opening the tap. Yet without these simple necessities, society would disintegrate overnight. And it seems we in the wine trade are soon about to re-learn this lesson the hard way.

Why? Bottles. Yes, bottles.

A very large percentage of wine is filled in to glass bottles. It is said that the invention of glass containers has been the single most important development in the history of wine. Imagine hauling home a 300 lb. earthenware “amphora” from your local wine shop, and you get the picture.

The wine industry has taken the plentiful supply of cheap glass bottles for granted. Outside the US and Australia, the glass bottle market has been very competitive, with oversupply the rule. There are lots of reasons for the surplus, but one basic challenge for bottle manufacturers is that once they flip the switch on a glass furnace, it cannot be turned off. It must run 24/7, 365 days a year. With every country in Western Europe producing wine, there have always been lots of manufacturers, competition… and supply.

Over the years, we’ve noticed a few anomalies with glass pricing: For example, in a low cost energy market like the US, low end wine bottles have historically cost nearly three times what they cost in Europe, where energy costs are much higher. It never made much sense until one realizes that the glass bottle business in the US is an oligopoly.

Graham was quoted in an article in last week about the shortage of glass in South Africa.
Taken in isolation, the ZA glass ‘shortage’ looks like the unintended consequence of one of the two glass manufacturers taking a furnace out of production to upgrade and add capacity. However, this is not a story exclusive to South African.

The reality is that furnaces are allegedly being taken out all over Europe as well. Coincidence? The way we see it, glass manufacturers are putting the squeeze on the wine industry. Glass prices are skyrocketing and the world’s largest glass manufacturer, Owens Illinois, with dominant market position in wine bottle markets of South Africa, Europe and many other countries, declared a 33% increase in earnings on 15% increase in sales. (Share price has tripled this year)

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but It is not hard to pencil out a carefully crafted plan, instigated by a couple of glass manufacturers to create shortages in the market and take massive price increases. This is just how it looks to me, and glass industry people are talking amongst themselves about it.

Take it from me, to have gone to all the trouble of producing a great wine, only to discover you can’t deliver it because of a shortage of something you had hithero always taken for granted- the glass bottle to put it in- is a mind-blowing experience.

To have your wine sitting in tanks without any way of getting it into consumer’s glasses, is an irony not lost on the bottle manufacturers.

It is a very bad situation for all wine producers. Mark my words, the biggest story in the wine trade this year won’t be about wine, it’ll be about shortages of glass bottles keeping the wine from getting to market.

There is much more to this story and I will try to post more on it.

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Couture launches with Threshers at Taste London Festival

The biggest drinks phenomenon of the Summer has hit the UK and South Africa. COUTURE {by Stormhoek} - a limited production world exclusive rosé crafted to taste better with ice and fruit has been launched exclusively by Threshers (UK) - 6.99 (Buy 3 for 2 and get Couture for 4.66 each).

Have a look at the video of our June launch in Regents Park at Taste London 2007. We were sited in the Thresher Wine Zone where we had a fully kitted out COUTURE BAR and loads of SWAG (stripy flip flops, t-shirts, caps, lollies, etc.). The launch was a huge success and we’re doing some more consumer shows towards the end of the year!!

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pete’s tale of woe…

[Pete in a state of woe etc.]

Poor ol’ Pete sent me the following e-mail yesterday:

Hi Hugh.

Here begins a tale of woe.

Having purchased (and thoroughly enjoyed) a bottle of your fine pinotage last night [i.e. the night before the new Stormhoek promo was posted] for the first time, myself and my two colleagues (one of them happens to be my wife) decided to take you up on your challenge today and ran (literally) to the local Tesco to take our photos there. Just outside the building, my foot found its way into the hole where a brick once lived and I seriously sprained my ankle.

Not only this, but the Tesco we ran to didn’t have any Stormhoek! After helping me limp back to the office, my lovely wife’s off to find an ankle support and some frozen peas.

Anyway, I’ve attached some photos of me looking sad in Tesco (ok i’m not looking sad, but it really hurts), and a photo of my foot and some wine. Surely this has to be worth a case? :)
[Pete's foot in a state of woe etc.]

(Keep in mind that, if I wasn’t one of the first 6, it’s because I had to limp back). Oh well… you can’t blame me for trying.)

Thanks, and keep up the good work.


Heh. Check out Pete’s neat website, “Your Name On Toast”.

[Note To Self:] I vote Pete gets a case of Stormhoek, anyway…

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will buys stormhoek


We have our first winner… Thanks, Wil!

[Wil's Flickr pic is here.]

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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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London Wine Fair Action

Next week is the annual London Wine Trade Fair at Excel in the Docklands. Thousands of people from around the world attend, and it is an opportunity to chat with customers, and meet folks who have never even heard of us.


As one might expect, we have a slightly different view of what a Fair should be. And this is the third year of us trying to break through the clutter, confusion and hubbub.

As little guys, we always think about how it is possible to have an impact with a tiny budget, in an industry populated by enormous mega-drinks companies. On the one hand, we don’t want to upset the Big Guys, lest we wind up like the little yellow guy below. But at the same time, we do have a job to do.


Typically, wine fairs consist of many shiny, expensive stands, populated with bottle, and largely middle-aged guys talking about wine, gossiping and nursing their very nasty hangovers (Yes, the wine guys do tend to drink too much) .

While the show starts on Tuesday, we got into gear two months ago (about two months late), but there was no point in rushing, as our London Wine Fair Maestro, Andrew, pictured below, he has an uncanny ability to pull entire families of rabbits out of a single hat- He does his best work under pressure.


Here’s what is going on this year:

New and improved, which will be displayed on a (according to Andrew) “fucking huge” LED screen [think Wembley] in the central boulevard of Excel.

Wine Fair Live this year is being authored in part by “Deep Throat”, a faceless, nameless member of the trade, s/he could be your boss, colleague, client or drinking partner, so beware what you say as deep throat tells all, and s/he can be emailed at, if there are any morsels that you’d like revealed anonymously.

Wine Fair Live this year will have roaming cameramen, the world famous Hugh MacLeod cartooning, Sandra D and Lil’ Jo of Shipwrecked
will be helping out.

When one enters the Hall this year, about 100 metres past the video wall, you’ll see a quite substantial structure which has, in its center, a screening room. We will be showing “Smarter Wine: The Movie”. It stars such luminaries as Dan Jago of Tesco, and Justin King. Justin is a bit of a legend around our office, as he went from being Nick and Al’s boss of the BWS department at Asda, to MD of J. Sainsbury quicker than you can say trockenbeerenauslese [Come on Justin, what's the recipe for the secret sauce?].

You’ll have to see the movie for yourself, but it is an instructional guide of what you need for success today in the UK market.

Tuesday afternoon, we are sponsoring a seminar entitled: “Terroir is Dead, Long Live Terroir!” Nick will be moderating, and the panel will include number of industry folks. We’re going to see if there is a way to foment a spirited debate on the usually excruciatingly boring subject of terroir. Prediction: tears and rants.

On Wednesday night our sister wine, Camden Park, will be sponsoring the Camden Park Steak-Out in aid of the Benevolent. And we will have a mechanical bull at the Fair, for those brave enough to give it a try.

We will also be showing a “Big Love” flick at our stand from Hugh’s tour around Tesco earlier this year.

There is too much to write about in this one post, so I will update as the week progresses.

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Stormhoek Activity