For the original article on Harpers website click here: Pieter Walser: BLANKBottle winery, South Africa on worldwide impact of competing in Wine-Stars at LIWF.
I heard about Wine-Stars through the newsletter, entered online and started following Wine-Stars on Twitter.
On the evening the finalists were announced, I told my wife that I wasn’t one of them, as I presumed the finalists would be contacted before being publicly announced. Imagine my surprise when I saw BLANKbottle was one of the finalists on Twitter.
I almost jumped through the roof and spent the next few hours enjoying the feeling and drinking champagne.
Twitter is not big in South Africa yet. At the time of the competition I followed 20 people and had about 250 (I think) followers.
Being a South African, I needed a UK visa which normally takes 15 working days to get. I applied for a priority visa but there were no guarantees that I would have it in time. By posting this on Twitter and Facebook, everyone offered their help and support. Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa who didn’t follow me at the time, saw my dilemma via Wine-Stars on Twitter and offered the assistance of her office in South Africa.
After WOSA submitted a letter to the UK consulate, I subsequently received my visa in two working days – just in time for my flight…four hours later.
I then emailed a newsletter to my database of 2,000 clients, explaining what had just happened and offered them pre-release options on all my, as yet unreleased, new wines. I don’t want to go into numbers, but suffice to say, I sold a LOT of wine on one day.
Throughout this whole visa application process, I kept my database in the loop of all developments as it unfolded via Twitter and Facebook – making them share in my adventure.
They were now aware that I made my flight. Whilst in transit, I was totally oblivious to the action this communication to my clients had stimulated…and how much wine I was selling online.
Arriving in London, there was no time to activate Twitter and Facebook on my phone. After I made the top 10, 15 minutes before the finals commenced, I sent a newsletter out to all my clients, and put a notification on Twitter and Facebook about what was happening, as well as a link to the live streaming of the event.
After the finals, I mentioned this to the guy in charge of the live streaming. He said that it now all made sense to him, as the viewers had quadrupled five minutes before the show started!
Now according to my wife ( I was totally unaware of this at the time), whilst the finals were on, there was a live chat by the viewers. This was apparently SO interesting, as each finalist had his followers and fans from his country of origin – almost like a wine world cup. This chat apparently continued until long after the event was finished.
This final unleashed a whole international wine trade following, mainly via Twitter, which I had not had before. There I was, standing in front of some of the world’s most influential wine gurus, without any business cards ( I’ve never had one). I was still trying to figure out how on earth I was going to initiate and maintain communication with them, when I switched my computer on three hours after the event, looked at my Twitter following, and realised that they’re following me.
I had also received 250 emails and by the next morning I had an additional 150. My Twitter followers grew from 250 to 300, which might not sound like a lot to you, but what is most significant about this, is that these 50 new followers are international wine buyers/writers/producers. And as I was meeting with buyers and traveling back to South Africa in the days following the event, I was unaware of the Tsunami that a combination of Facebook, Twitter, the live streaming, my newsletters, on-line media etc was causing and how that was impacting my stock levels back in South Africa.
I’m not complaining and enjoying the ride. Thank you Winestars.

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