You may be wondering how on earth a pig, let alone, a Spider-Pig, relates to wine. I certainly was - which is why I was eager to get the story firsthand from one of the two Davids behind Spider Pig Wines.
David Wibberley was more than happy to walk me through the project over a glass of Spider Pig Bro/Zay: “Dave Nel and I met through friends and wine circles. I was working in hospitality and Dave used to call on me quite a bit, and I would buy a lot of his products. We just started doing some fringe work together, including curated wine labels for certain events and clients, as we both had a big circle of winemakers. One night in 2015, Dave phoned me after a spectacular wine-fuelled night out with some of the industry's pioneering young winemakers. He called me up and said: ‘we’ve got to do a wine called Spider Pig.’”
Referencing a scene from The Simpsons Movie, Dave W loved the idea. “That was probably my favourite segment of the movie, where Homer Simpson puts the pig on the ceiling. And I just thought - it would be really cool to call a wine brand that.”
The Simpsons reference starts and ends there. Within a few weeks, the two friends had allocated a portion of Grenache Noir to the project, had a label designed and printed and put the wines out to market. “I think we started with about 300 bottles and sold that within two weeks.”
They repeated the process shortly thereafter with some Pinot Noir sourced from an iconic producer in the Walker Bay region. After a similar response, they then found some Old Vine Chenin from 39-year-old vines out in Wellington, which they did under the ‘Blanc’ to add a white to the mix.
“And then, you know, people started cottoning on. They were coming to the trade shows and asking what the Spider Pig guys were coming up with next. So I said to Dave, maybe we need to start looking at this in a more serious light.”
By 2016, the demand was there, but they had to wait until after harvest to get new wines out. While biding their time, they put their heads together with label designer Kelsie Blake, who was in the final stages of completing her studies through AAA School of Advertising (now part of the team at Publicis Machine). She immediately got where the Daves were going, and the Bro/Zay Rosé label, as well as the award-winning Roam Piggy Roam label were born (the latter of which was inspired by the grid design on a bottle of toilet spray that Dave W spotted in the bathroom at a retail wine buyer’s house (talk about drawing inspiration from unconventional places!).
While the quirky branding has been central to Spider Pig since its inception, Dave W explains that it’s not just fun and games: “fun on the outside, and serious inside the bottle.” With each of the wines in the range regularly produced by some of SA’s most talented young winemakers, from Tremayne Smith to Stephanie Wiid, Spider Pig is about making excellent wine accessible to a broader base. “People are looking for fun. They like colour. They like something they can reference. We’re not looking to trade off any of the winemakers’ names, nor do we list estates. We only mention the wine’s origin. We want people to look at wine differently.”
According to Dave W, the possibilities, the puns and the potential brand extensions are limitless. “We’re not stuck in a certain demographic. We can do anything we want to, and work with whoever we want to. The brand can evolve and stay relevant.” Indeed, even the Spider Pig merchandise is in high demand.
It can even give back. “As a wine brand not living in that estate space with rolling hills of vineyards, we’ve had to look at how we can give back. Without having any kind of BWI, CSI or Fair Trade initiative attached to it, we’ve gone with something of our own called the Piggy Preservation Project. What we’ve done with that is link to key restaurants, guys like Bertus Basson, Janse & Co, Foliage, James Diack from Coobs and Douglas and Hale in Joburg... What we’re doing is selling Spider Pig in all of these restaurants, who are big fans of the wines. So every time they buy a bottle, they put a certain amount of money aside to raise funds for sustainable pig farming. This includes assisting farmers with access to better feed, moving to organic practices and education around sustainable pig farming methods.”
Dave W sees Spider Pig as filling a gap that he’s seen for some time. “Sometimes people are too intimidated to drink wine, even if it’s in their price range, because they don’t understand it. You put a bottle of Spider Pig on the table and the guy who thinks he knows about wine and the guy who doesn’t know anything about wine can connect and make it a talking piece. It’s about removing the snobbery around wine and making it fun again. It’s about inclusion.”
With the Spider Pig trademark now registered internationally, inclusion without compromising on quality may just be the secret to why this is one piggy going to market.