The Duke is back! Wellington Wines has sights set on being more brand and consumer focused

by | Sep 26, 2018 | Wineland

Wellington Wines draws from its namesake town’s proud history and recent in-depth market knowledge to put the Duke of Wellington firmly in the lead.

It was a dark and stormy day in June 1815 when Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley defeated the French army commanded by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. By securing victory at Waterloo, Sir Wellesley – the first Duke of Wellington – ended Napoleon’s tumultuous reign and ushered in a time of peace and prosperity. While Napoleon languished in exile on St Helena with little more than Constantia’s sweet wine for comfort, the Cape Colony enjoyed a boom in trade with Britain. Local wines were in greater demand than ever. In 1840, the town of Wellington was established in the region known by the French Huguenots as Val du Charron (Valley of the Wagonmaker), where they’d been farming for more than a century. By name and reputation, the Duke had arrived in South Africa and found a home in the heart of its wine country.


In 2013, three cellars merged to form Wellington Wines. The new business had its sights set on making Wellington Wines more brand and consumer focused, while strengthening its dominance in the bulk market – as a producing cellar, Wellington Wines yield and process up to 28 000 tons grapes annually from its more than 50 differ-ent shareholder producers. The two-pronged approach requires complementary strategies firmly grounded in research.

From the outset, Wellington Wines kept an ear to the ground and paid attention to the detail. Wise local market research shows 22% of Wellington Wines’ intended market already has a basic knowledge of wine and is willing to spend more time (and money) on the category. Having ventured into the intimidating world of wine, they are actively looking for trustworthy company on the journey. Growing this segment means channel-ling enough premium wine through a respectable, well-loved brand to pique the interest of the segment’s influencers. The original Duke of Wellington was known for being remarkably well balanced – an indispensable quality when your aim is to attract new consumers with something accessible while rewarding existing customers with more than they expected. Registered years ago, the Duke of Wellington brand was once again called into service. The front line comprises South Africa’s Big Five: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a White Pinotage performing double duty (see WineLand, September). Collectively, the range is known simply as The Duke.


The six wines are all deployed with a mission. Each bottle carries a special tagline on the label expressing its personality – a memorable phrase from somewhere along the journey, ready to be integrated into the consumer’s own unfolding story. Each mantra begins with “Born in the detail”, followed by a choose-your-own-adventure number that can be instantly recalled without any knowledge of viticultural terms. No.1 Pinotage, “Striving for progress”. This is the true first Duke of Wellington. As Wellington Wines’ most formidable variety, this Duke is the heart and soul of the collection. No.2 Chenin Blanc, “A unique identity carves a path towards success”. Along with Pinotage, this white grape variety enjoys the most focus in the cellar. No.33 Sauvignon Blanc, “Curiosity leads with an authentic mind” and No.18 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Boldness is the courage to rethink”, are both popular cultivars in South Africa. Together the numbers represent the GPS coordinates for Wellington Wines, -33.63547, 18.98989. No.8 Merlot, “Distinctiveness makes a lasting first impression”. This cultivar is popular in the Asian market, where the number 8 is seen as auspicious. No.5 White Pinotage, “True originality is defined by its own terms”. A perfumed, flavour-driven wine with the female market in mind. Think Chanel … Each number is meant to reflect the corresponding wine’s distinctive personality and emphasises the wines are not ranked.

The Duke himself has a reputation that precedes him. In popular culture, the moniker not only evokes old-school respect, but also happens to have been the Kruger National Park’s biggest tusker, legendary actor John Wayne’s nickname and slang for a cool dude with serious street cred. The social marketing campaign invites customers to “Cook like a Duke” and explore the complete range to dis-cover which numbers resonate with their personal enjoyment. The Duke was a crucial part of Chef Gcina’s tasting at Khabo Gcina’s Lifestyle Restaurant in Tembisa when he demonstrated how easy it is to enjoy your favourite wine with your favourite food.


For more than 10 years CEO Johan Truter has steered Wellington Wines on a steady course of consolidation and innovation, culminating in the launch of the Duke range. With his task complete, he’s moving on to lend his talents else-where. Wellington Wines financial manager Francois Pienaar takes over the reins as CEO this year with the full support of the staff, management and board of directors headed by Retief Joubert. From this new position of strength, the new team has a clear mandate: to uphold Wellington Wines’ rich legacy and continue to apply the winning formula across the spectrum, while outmanoeuvring challenges with characteristic knowledge and determination. Because that’s how you make history. Ask the Duke.

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