Brand Restage & Communications

Branding, packaging and communications upgrade for iconic Argentine wine brand

Bodega Toro Centenario

Mendoza, Argentina

Grupo Fecovita is one of the Top-10 wine producers in the world, located in Mendoza, Argentina. They retained Joseph Granados on a limited-term contract as VP Strategic Direction in May 2020. Primary focus was developing marketing strategies to introduce and grow the company's core brands in North American markets.

 

Fecovita's most popular and venerable brand, Bodega Toro Centenario, became an immediate priority due to the outdated look-and-feel of its branding and packaging. Toro is the top selling wine of Argentina, and the second largest brand in the world. It played a major role in Argentina's modern winemaking history, a story the new branding seeks to tell more effectively to new consumers in the global wine marketplace.

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The Story of Vino Toro:

Argentina's Most Popular Wine

Researched and Created by Granados Consulting for Fecovita Group

The story of Bodega Toro Centenario intertwines with the history of quality winemaking and the Malbec grape varietal in Argentina. It is impossible to understand one without the other. 

 

Although wine was first made in Argentina by Spanish missionaries during the 16th Century, the movement to produce high-quality table wine arguably began on April 17, 1853. On this date a French agronomist named Michel Aimé Pouguet was invited to establish a new winemaking school in the town of Mendoza. Having already done work in neighboring Chile, Michel brought numerous varieties of grape cuttings with him from France. One of these was a unique clone of Malbec. Wine lovers of today celebrate April 17 as World Malbec Day in memory of Michel’s pivotal role introducing the grape to its spiritual home in Argentina.

 

But Monsieur Pouget was not the only European immigrant pursuing his dreams and destiny in Argentina. Several decades later in the 1880’s two other young men disembarked in Buenos Aires who would change the course of Argentine winemaking. Their names were Bautista Gerónimo Gargantini and Juan Giol. Both hailed from the Swiss Italian foothills of the Alps, and they would become lifetime companions and business partners. Like many other European expats of the time, especially those with experience making wine, Gargantini and Giol each took advantage of a one-way train ride and the free acreage offered by the Argentine government to move west to the nascent wine country of Mendoza. 

 

Argentina attracted many immigrants from Italy, Spain and France in the late 19th Century. Mostly these were people who loved an honest bottle of locally grown wine to accompany their supper in the evening or celebrate weddings, births and other family events. Unlike the early winegrowers of neighboring Chile, who tended to be landed aristocrats and capitalists, the early pioneers of the Argentine wine industry were mostly common people: “campesinos” willing to accept the harsh climate and terrain of Mendoza and “tame the desert” to cultivate vines there. 

 

While the wealthy set of Mendoza in the late 1800’s focused on making money from their wheat and their cattle, it was common people that cared about wine. By the end of the 19th century they had also come to love their Malbec. The grape adapted effortlessly to the dry highland terroir of Mendoza, providing ample yields and a deep, flavor-intensive wine style. Although the Argentine bourgeoisie might prefer wines of nobler pedigree found in the great capitals of Europe, it was a “peasant rebellion” that made Malbec Argentina’s wine of choice. 

 

Among these independent minded peasants were the cofounders of Bodega Toro. The two men were in their early twenties when they arrived in Mendoza and shared similar tastes. Gargantini was from southern Switzerland and Giol from northern Italy, so both were born and raised in Swiss-Italian communities. They also married sisters from the same family—Margerita and Olivia Bondino, recently arrived from Tuscany, Italy. And both young men shared a common interest in making wine. They came from families and regions with a heritage of winemaking, and now found themselves surrounded by fellow immigrants who, like them, craved the purple beverage of the homelands they had left behind. 

And so, Bautista Gargantini and Juan Giol—two young men who shared the same father-in-law and the same mother tongue—decided to launch a winemaking business together.

 

And so, Bautista Gargantini and Juan Giol—two young men who shared the same father-in-law and the same mother tongue—decided to launch a winemaking business together.

(photos show Bautista Gargantini, Juan Giol and Michel Pouget, respectively)

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The first challenge, as with any startup, was financing. Gargantini took a very pragmatic approach to raising the necessary capital. Combining manual labor with his innate entrepreneurial spirit, he spent six years laying bricks, painting houses and selling sausages at a meat stand in the local market. By 1890 the two brothers-in-law had managed to rent a small winery, with just enough money left over to purchase three oak barrels for fermentation and batch exploration. Their big breakthrough came in 1896 when they discovered the key to what they immediately knew was the perfect blend: one that would soon make them internationally famous. They named the new wine “Vino Toro.” 

 

Having created the style of wine they wanted, the partners also articulated a sense of purpose and commercial vision for their new business. They wanted Vino Toro to be a wine made by working people for working people: “por laburantes para laburantes.” The same democratic spirit that drove the growing popularity of the Malbec varietal in Argentina served as inspiration for Toro’s drinkable wine style and accessible image. Toro would be a wine for the common man. Gargantini and Giol wanted to produce wine that their own neighbors and friends could enjoy every day of the week.

 

In this regard, Toro paid homage to the European homeland both men never fully left behind: a land where the Alps rather than the Andes cast their majestic influence. Here, wine was an indispensable ingredient in the celebration of simple pleasures and a sense of community. The name Toro—as well as its original brand icon showing the head of a wild bull—derived from a region close to the birthplace of Bautista’s father Pietro, a Swiss canton called Uri. In ancient Celtic language “ure” was the word for bull, and since the 13th Century the canton’s coat of arms had always featured the head of a wild bull. For many years the Toro label would feature a bull’s head image identical to Uri’s regional emblem. The wine came to be known in Argentina as “Cabeza de Toro.”

 

In 1897, one year after discovering the ideal blend for Toro, Gargantini and Giol managed to purchase a 48-hectare parcel of land in the Maipú area just southeast of the town of Mendoza. Here they build their first winery, which they christened Colina de Oro. As with the name Toro, Colina de Oro honored the community where Gargantini’s father Pietro had raised a family and built a career as founder of an important political party. Located within the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino just south of Uri, the town of Colina de Oro was also where Pietro himself had made wine, in keeping with family tradition.

 

During the first decade of the 20th Century success came rapidly for the two partners. Still only in their thirties when the Vino Toro formula was perfected, by 1910 the founders of Vino Toro and Colina de Oro had increased their annual production from three barrels to 43 million liters, effectively making their winery the largest in the world at the time. Toro’s winemaking operations expanded to eight standalone wine cellars with more than a thousand oak vats and barrels and several thousand gainfully employed workers. The wine was in such demand that the partners constructed a “wine pipeline” to carry it to the nearby Gutiérrez railway station, where it was loaded into tank wagons for transport to a growing population of European expats in Buenos Aires.

 

Today, well over a century after Bautista Gargantini and Juan Giol developed their beloved Toro formula, Bodega Toro continues to bring enjoyment to millions of wine lovers throughout the world. In its home market of Argentina, the brand is by far the country’s most popular wine with a staggering 20% market share of total wine consumption. Toro also ranks as the second most popular wine brand in the world in terms of annual sales volume. 

 

Although they eventually returned to lands of their birth, the two old companions and partners had fulfilled their vision to create a wine made by and for workers. This same goal has somehow remained intact throughout the decades since Gargantini and Giol built their business. Moving forward in the 21st Century the Bodega Toro winery operates as a grower-owned business, with 100% of grape supply purchased from its dedicated community of several thousand small to mid-sized winegrowers spread throughout the Mendoza wine region. Toro’s grower-owners also participate directly in the winery’s governance through a democratic system and receive top market price for their grapes based on a flexible fair-trade policy that protects members from fluctuations of the economy or global demand.

 

With its grower-owned production model and its worldwide audience of wine consumers, Bodega Toro continues to fulfill the legacy of its founders: an authentic Argentine wine made “by the workers for the workers.” To this day, Toro Malbec and other varietals from the Bodega Toro Centenario wine portfolio can be found wherever people gather to celebrate life’s simple pleasures with their family and friends.