The UK's Virgin Wines and Distell have signed a multi-million Rand deal whereby the South African producer will create an exclusive wine brand for the online retailer.

Linley Schultz, Distell's recently appointed group winemaker tailored the range called Stone Gables specifically for Virgin and initially includes a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend. The reds will sell at £6.99 and the whites at £5.99.

Virgin, which is two years old has positioned itself in the highly competitive distance-selling wine market and as part of its goal to achieve international representation, it has secured a strategic partnership with on-line retailer to run its online wine retail service in the UK.

South African wines sold by Virgin last year amounted to 10% of its 150,000 case turnover. This figure is expected to go up to between 12 and 15% of an expected 300 000 cases this year, according to information received from Distell.

According Distell marketer Peter Hafner, Virgin was looking for a South African supplier to provide a quality volume brand to suit its customer profile.

"We created the range in close concert with its buying team, focussing on the selection of wines, their taste profiles, the brand name and labelling," said Hafner.

Lee Middleton, buying director at Virgin said his team were familiar with Linley Shultz and the ranges he evolved while working in the UK several years ago and were keen to work with Distell when they heard he had joined their ranks.

An initial order of 4 000 cases of Stone Gables will be dispatched to the UK market. From July, the four wines will be included in a case lot offered to Virgin Club members, together with another four top flight wines from the Distell stable, including Tukulu. Tukulu is a west coast wine farm in which the Stellenbosch wine and spirits giant has shares, together with black empowerment partners. The total number of cases for the initial project will be 7 500 cases.