If I said it a 100 times, I’ve said it a 1000 times: I do not believe in a big break, so to speak. I believe that life is a million small steps, none of them seemingly super significant but when you look back you’ve gained a lot of distance above sea level, without actually noticing it. But I might have to swallow my words this time. This is a wrap-up e-mail of my recent trip to London and I promise I will keep this brief if at all possible.
I am not a particularly emotional type of person but sitting at Gatwick airport on my way home after the WINE-STARS final, working my way through 485 e-mails, I actually had a lump in my throat. I have been brought to tears more in this past week than in my whole life… The support I received from you is CRAZY. I have no idea how to say thank you to all of you. You are awesome!!! The guy who was doing the live feed during the finals commented on all the SA traffic (my wife said the live chat was almost like a wine world cup with everyone’s fans and followers supporting their country!) Anyhow here is the low down on the event, taken from where we left off in my last blog entry.
After all the visa drama, thanks to my wife, friends, family, WOSA, WINESTARS and the UK consulate, I collected my passport with my visa at 11h00 on Tuesday the 22nd May. I then booked and paid my ticket by 11h30, picked up my stuff (packed in good faith the previous night!) at home and arrived at the airport at 15h00 to fly to London… all on the same day! After 24 hours of traveling, I walked into the pre-event briefing session at the London International Wine Fair, met the rest of the Wine-Stars finalists and drank great Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The following day at 08h00 all 20 finalists had to present their wines to the judges, who spent 4 hours tasting and deciding who will advance to the Top 10 finals. The competition (not to mention the tension) was immense – there were guys producing R600 a bottle Malbec to producers making 4 000 gazillion liters of wine in Brazil, awesome New Zealand and Tasmania Pinot Noir and Champagne from France, Spanish Albariño…you name it. I was the only South African in the Top 20. Which felt like a lifetime later, only 1 hour before the finals were to commence, they announced the Top 10 finalists. Each finalist had exactly 3 minutes to pitch his whole business to the judges on this huge stand/stage in the middle of the London International Wine Fair, whilst they tasted the wine they picked for the finals. The judges then had 9 minutes to ask us any questions.
So there was little old BLANKbottle, standing in front of some of the world’s most influential wine gurus, without any business cards. To give you an idea; the total combined expenditure of the 7 judges amounts to 300 million pounds per year. I have no idea how to convey the stress levels I experienced before my 3 minutes. I am not particularly someone who stresses in situations like that, but this time round I had such a stomachache and just wanted to run away.
When all the finalists had had a turn, the judges gave feedback on each producer’s business – with no feelings spared. For those of you who watched the event live, and are still wondering who the top 5 winners were – some time during the morning tasting, the judges decided to change the format of the competition slightly by giving themselves the opportunity to list any of the finalists they choose. See below for 2 youtube films. The one is my presentation (the more I stressed the faster I spoke…) and the most important one is the second one, where the judges interacted, asked questions and made comments.

The results: BLANKbottle got public commitments (Simply put: a mandate to start negotiations for an export contract) from 5 out of the 7 judges and the other 2 gave me their cards afterwards for potential negotiations. Good enough for me. Now to explain to you what this means to me as a person: I started BLANKbottle with no plan – just something from the heart. The closest I could get a wine to my personality. It was never designed for people to like it. It goes against all the rules of business and especially the wine trade. Everything that does not work in the world of wine retailing works with BLANKbottle. And the other way around. Now the fact that I got the opportunity to present my wines, for the first time outside the borders of South Africa, to the biggest, most recognized, wine buyers in the UK… And then Joan Torrents (represents 1600 restaurants and gastropubs) said: “there is a fine line between insanity and brilliance…” OH my goodness! I’ve never in my whole life felt such a rush. It was as if everything came together at that very moment. And it is not about getting listings, selling wine and making money. It is about having the opportunity to have fun and share something that is dear to me with the rest of the world. The beginning of a new adventure.
And to you: this might be a feather in my cap, but I would love to put it in yours. You believed in what I was doing all these years, through the tough times when I lost faith. You stuck by me, encouraged me and supported me. And now it is time to start sharing our adventure with Britain. I am so excited!
PS: And yes, I’m not sure if I will have stock left after I signed with a distributer, so if you want to order some wine: See below for a list of the pre-release wines on offer to you. E-mail me your order as well as delivery address and cell number – you may make up mixed cases. I will mail you an invoice for an Internet transfer and I will deliver your order.
White wines:
Moment of Silence 2011 – Chenin, Chardonnay, Viognier – WELLINGTON = R85/bottle
The White BLACK 2010 – Rousanne, Clairette blanche, Viognier, Grenache blanc – SWARTLAND = R115/bottle
Red wines:
E.K.G. Petit Verdot 2011 – STELLENBOSCH = R59/bottle
Midnight Call 2011 – Cab, Mer, Cab franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec – STELLENBOSCH = R85/bottle
My Koffer 2011 – BREEDEKLOOF Cinsaut = R250/bottle
BLACK 2010 – SWARTLAND Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre = R165/bottle

E-mail: pieter@blankbottle.co.za
Telephone: +27 (0)82 872 8658

Please note

Due to the many small batches of wines we make, availability changes on a daily basis. Please email aneen@blankbottle.co.za if you’d like to order any of our wines or if you are looking for a specific wine, and she will reply with a list of wines now selling. If the wine you are looking for is sold out, we could suggest some alternative excitement and/or we could also put together a unique selection for you.

Please also make sure you add your name to our list below. You’ll be the first to know of new releases.

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