Intelligent design

Wellington Wines draws from a rich history of South African winemaking to design and produce wines that are attuned to customers’ tastes.

Wellington Wines was formed in December 2010 from the amalgamation of two South African wine cellars – one of them more than 100 years old. This was Wellington Wynkelder, one of nine producers’ cellars opened in the Western Cape in the early 1900s with funds from the Cape Colony government. It received the first grapes from its 15-strong membership in February 1906, after which the cellar continued to grow.

The other producers’ wine cellar, called Wamakersvallei, was opened in 1941 by a group of grape growers wanting somewhere to press their grapes. This cellar placed a lot of emphasis on identifying prime areas for growing high-quality grapes for specific wine styles, thus enabling it to produce a variety of award-winning wines.

Recognising their synergies, Wellington Wynkelder and Wamakersvallei amalgamated less than two years ago to form Wellington Wines and the advantages of joining forces have since become clear.

Stronger together

Wellington Wines reaps great benefit in drawing from the historical expertise and skill of two previously separate groups of grape growers – not to mention their collective supplies of equipment and capital. Chief executive John Truter says the amalgamation has resulted in a “much more attractive product offering, especially for larger clients”.

This is to be expected from having a greater diversity of wine-making equipment at hand, due to the combination of two different production facilities. “The merger also gave access to a larger pool of capital resources and created a bigger platform with greater opportunity for future growth,” Truter says. “In addition, gaining a larger management structure enabled us to focus more on our production, marketing, finances, administration and viticulture.”

He adds that the success of this amalgamation has given Wellington Wines further reason and encouragement to expand further. “With the current merger still fresh in our minds, we are already looking at other opportunities to expand our production base,” he says. “We are also in discussions with a few possible future partners for joint ventures. We will always be looking for opportunities to improve the financial position of our shareholders.”

For all tastes

Combining the talents and produce of many different grape growers has enabled Wellington Wines to offer a variety of wines that are of different styles, at different price points and suited to different markets.

“We have La Cave at the super-premium end of the price spectrum, our Wellington Wines mid-range and Bain’s Way as our everyday, no-fuss, no-nonsense wine,” Truter says. He nominates the Chenin Blanc white and Pinotage red as close favourites with customers and claims that Wellington Wines “must be one of the largest suppliers of Mocca Pinotage in South Africa, if not the world”.

The producer’s various ranges ensure there’s a wine suited to every budget, but that’s only a small part of how the company ensures it is meeting customer requirements. As a wine designer, it creates wines with care and precision in response to market demand.

“Every bottle we sell is a designer wine in its own right, because of our market-back-to-the-vineyard approach,” Truter says. “We go to great lengths to ensure we know exactly what style of wine our customers want and then prepare it to their specifications.”

All of the company’s shareholders are grape growers who deliver their produce to the Wellington Wines facility. To ensure these growers produce grapes that match up to style and quality specifications, the company employs a full-time viticulturist who helps growers to follow the viticultural practices required for each specific market segment.

Exciting times ahead

Truter claims Wellington Wines’ flexibility and quality control give it an edge over other wine producers. “We operate in a very competitive environment and so need to tick all the boxes when it comes to our clients’ requirements,” he says. “We promise to be our customers’ winemaking solution, no matter what their needs are.”

The company’s biggest buyer for brand-specific wines is large retail chain Woolworths. It also has supply programs in place for direct sales of bottled wines and for supplying private-label bottles to retailer groups. It sells its own brand from the Wellington Wines stable, which features a modern tasting room. Customers can find its most popular brands in local restaurants and liquor outlets in Wellington, in the Western Cape of South Africa.

Following a period of remarkable expansion, Wellington Wines now exports into several international markets including Namibia, Germany, Scandinavia, China, the Netherlands, Belgium and Jamaica. Truter says there are further developments just on the horizon. “We are busy with a few exciting projects that wouldn’t be traditionally expected from an organisation of our nature,” he says. “So watch this space.”

Truter recognises that Wellington Wines could not be looking forward to this bright future were it not for all the hard work that makes up its past.

“We would like to convey our gratitude and appreciation for every person, organization and client who formed part of the proud history of our parent companies, and who is now building with us to the success of Wellington Wines,” he says. “We could not have done this on our own and we really salute you for being with us every step of the way and also in going forward.”