Ruffino IL Ducale

Project Type: Strategic line extension

Appellation: IGT Toscano
Key Varietals: Sangiovese, Merlot

Price Point: $18-20



In 2005 the Ruffino winery in Tuscany began exploration of a new Super Tuscan wine as the third SKU in their iconic Riserva Ducale tier of wines. This project was prompted in part by a varietal authenticity controversy caused by one of their contracted growers, Piero Conticelli. The US market represented more than 60% of total Ruffino sales volume, and the winery's famous Riserva Ducale "Tan Label" controlled 14% of total Chianti dollar volume (based on IRI Food & Drug scan data), with a $22 retail shelf price that was roughly double category average. Another Tuscany image-leader, Marchesi Antinori, had set a precedent several years earlier in 2001 by declassifying their Villa Antinori label from Chianti Classico to IGT Toscana. This Villa Antinori brand transition served as a benchmark for discussions of the optimal strategic path for any revision of the Ducale brand architecture. (Riserva Ducale "Tan Label" shown here.)


Define and create the concept for a new Toscana IGT red wine from Ruffino, including name, price point, wine style, packaging and US launch plan. Incorporate existing Ducale name and branding into the new line extension without damaging or eroding image for the Riserva Ducale Tan and Gold label products, while also respecting Italian wine laws with respect to classification and naming conventions. Joseph Granados led the steering committee for this project, comprised of members from both the Ruffino winery and its US partner, Constellation Brands.


Challenges were numerous and varied. A simple declassification as Antinori had done was quickly ruled out. Riserva Ducale wines had grandfathered the word "riserva" as part of their brand name, as well as their appellation designation. However, any use of "riserva" in a new SKU that did not comply with EU legal definitions would be disallowed by the Italian government. Consequently, it would be impossible to simply transition Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva into a new "Riserva Ducale" Super Tuscan wine, as Antinori had done with their Villa Antinori wine.

Once a decision was made to retain the Tan Label Chianti Classico SKU, challenges revolved around naming, price point and label design for any new IGT Toscana wine. Pricing would need to be at least nominally less than for Tan Label, yet high enough to generate adequate margins given COGs based on Riserva-quality fruit costs. Dozens of potential names were considered, with Il Ducale, Capriccio Ducale, Il Nuovo Ducale and Selezione Ducale among the finalists.

Another significant challenge was thematic: how to share and leverage brand equities derived from the heritage of a venerable, iconic Chianti Classico brand like Ducale Tan Label, while also conveying something new, exciting and relevant within the Tuscan category, i.e. to what degree to separate identity of this new Super-Tuscan SKU from its noble forebears, both in terms of wine style as well as visual imagery and messaging.


The name "Il Ducale" was chosen for its clarity, simplicity and grammatical accuracy in Italian. Price point was designated at $19.99, roughly at parity with Villa Antinori and other accessibly priced Super Tuscans. Concurrently, brand icon Riserva Ducale was increased in price to $24.99 retail, creating space between the two SKUs and giving the new wine a strong strategic price point to encourage consumer interest and trial. The wine itself blended 75% Sangiovese with complementary Syrah and Merlot juice to add softness and complexity. 

Packaging design featured prominent Ruffino branding at the top of the label, creating a clear connection with the other two Ducale SKUs. It also maintained the famous Ducale tan-colored graphic of a duke accepting wine from a valet during his travels; however, it created differentiation from the historic Chianti Classico SKUs through use of a wine-red frame that served as a background for the "Il Ducale" sub-branding and the various appellation and vintage mandatories.  Extensive launch activities were planned to support market introduction of Il Ducale, including national advertising, a full range of in-store merchandising tools, a co-branding initiative with iLLY coffees, and market blitzes in key markets around the northeastern US.
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