River+Wolf reviews

Review: 5 Star Wine Names

Not much has changed for Old World wine naming. Most serious, top-tier wine-makers — especially in countries like France with long wine-making histories—continue to use names that reference the winemaker’s family name, a château or domain, or some reference to the wine itself. But in countries newer to winemaking like the United States, Australia, South Africa, and Chile, the approach to wine naming has become unbuttoned — or should we say, uncorked?

Along with providing insights for the wine-name curious, the 12 handpicked monikers and tips below can serve as a bit of inspiration for marketer or entrepreneurs struggling to develop names for a New Word or more adventurous Old World wine or vinery brand.

Smoke Tree

The winemakers found their naming inspiration in their own backyard. The Smoke Tree’s qualities — its cloud of pink and purple blossoms, drought-resistant nature, and minimal upkeep requirements — reflected the winemakers’ interest in non-interventionist techniques that allow the beauty and natural flavor of their fruits to shine through. Adding to the story? The founders’ Smoke Tree presided over many an outdoor dinner with friends and family.

Tip: When looking for names, go beyond well-known trees, flowers, and plants. Did you know that Ice Age, Ice Cream, and Double Flaming Parrot, are all names of tulip varieties? Or that Monkey Puzzle and Devil’s Walking Stick  are kinds of trees? When naming after flora and fauna skip the obvious — dig deeper. You’ll find a whole treasure-house of names below the surface.

Seaglass

The lovely name Seaglass works on two levels. First, it evokes a surprise, in this case finding a smooth bit of sparkling glass on the beach. This concept ties well to the founders’ story of uncovering an unexpected flavor. Adding to the name’s strength is the fact that their coastal vineyard once sat beneath the sea’s surface.

Tip: When naming a wine or vineyard, try to draw on a unique aspect of the region — in this case, the vineyard’s land was once being below the sea. And don’t be afraid to introduce a concept that might, on first glance, seem completely wrong. Using “glass” in a food or beverage name may feel strange. Who wants to swallow glass? But try to get beyond your initial impression. “Jagged Glass”, for example, would be a horrific name for a food or beverage name. Seaglass, on the other hands, carries many positive associations.

Blasted Church

According to the Blasted Church website,  a small crew from Okanagan Falls set off to a deserted mining camp  with the mission of dismantling an old wooden church and bringing it back to Okanagan Falls without damaging the wood. To achieve this goal, they used a controlled blast to loosen the church’s nails. The name honors these pioneers for their “craftsmanship, steadfastness, and vision”, all attributes associated with the vinery and its wines. The brand extends its metaphor with navigational links like Pilgrimage, Believers, and Congregation.

Tip: The best brand stories are those that naturally capture key attributes and messaging of a brand. If this vinery, for example, wanted to convey a message about good value, the name and story would be out of synch.  Ideally, the name and story should fit together as seamlessly as the dancer and the dance, the wave and the sea.

Layer Cake

As a child, Jayson Woodward, the vintner of Layer Cake wine, enjoyed the site of his grandmother making her famous Sunday layer cake. As he sipped on a small glass of wine, he would listen to his grandfather compare winemaking and cake baking. Like his grandmother’s cake, the winery’s brands are lightly spiced and rich with layers of fruit, mocha, and chocolate.

Tip: Food and wine are natural pairings. But if you go this naming route, try to find a compelling background story. Also experiment with names that are related to food, but are not food. How about White Napkin for a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or young Riesling?

Whippet

As a dog breed, the Whippet is known to be both social and stylish. As such, this is a great name for a Sauvignon Blanc that positions itself as both approachable and elegant. The label design, which features a partial view of a Whippet, echoes the brand’s sleek and elegant name.

Tip: Given the overuse of this naming convention in wines, animal names should be used judiciously. Avoid frogs, stags, elks, horses, herons, and other overused creatures. That said, don’t just pick an obscure or less well-known critter like the Tassled Wobbegong (carpet shark) or the Hellbender (a giant salamander) for the sake of novelty.  Be sure the animal’s dominant characteristics or personalities echo your brand’s chief qualities and characteristics. 

Oggau Estate Portrait Wines

We are looking at names, not how brilliant packaging brings them to live. In this case, we are making an exception.  While Portrait may not be the most original name—in fact there are several brands with this name — this word, when paired with the portrait drawings on each bottle — elevates the name.

As explained by the artist, Jung von Matt: “Just like every man, every wine has its own individual character ranging from young to mature, from playful to complex. We assigned a face, a story and a name to these different attributes. Eventually, this led to a typical family clan with grandparents, parents and children.”

Tip: If you are using a name that might be a bit more common, your label design must do extra lifting. Be sure it adds extra heft to the name and helps distinguish it from other closely named brands.

Weemala

Why re-invent the wheel? Sometimes the name of a region is just too good not to use as the name. Weemala — an aboriginal word that means “good view”— is one of those. The name really takes flight with its label with its label design — drawings of five birds common to the area.

Tip: As wine labels need to include the region where the wine came from, naming a wine after a region would likely risk a trademark refusal. If the name of a city or town, however, has a unique sound and meaning, consider using it — either partially (Emela) or in full — as a brand name.

Subplot

J Bookwalter is a literary-themed winery in Columbia Valley. Not only do they give their wines book-inspired names like Subplot, Foreshadow, and Protagonist, but they have a wine club called The Book Club and a restaurant dubbed Fiction.

Tip: Organizing the names of products related to a company name (in this case the “book” in Bookwalter) creates a cohesive brand. Just be careful that the over-arching company name is broad enough to encompass natural tie-ins as more and more products are produced.

Restless River

A prime location near a major river helps wine achieve this balance, as rivers are great climate tamers. This is why many of the world’s top wine regions are near rivers. If you do use “river” in the name, be sure the second word, as is the case with Restless River, adds some distinction.

Tip: If using standard geographical references found in many names — e.g. rivers, bays, creaks, streams, mountains, hills, and so on — partner the word with an energetic or unique descriptor. Restless, for example, is far more intriguing than “Blue River” or “Moon River”. Also don’t forget to consider sound in your pairing. In this name, the repeated ‘r’ creates memorable music.

Mysterium

When Jidvein wines of Transylvania decided to develop a new limited wine series for the night bar and nightclub market, they knew they would have to stand out from the rows of liquors and spirits glimmering on the shelves. This name (and design) does just that.

Mysterium reflects the secret nature of the brand, an idea strengthened through the use of the letters FR + MO + SB (a reference to the Feteasca Regala, Muscat Ottonel and Sauvignon Blanc grapes). Adding to the wine’s mystery? The name is silkscreened in ultraviolet ink; it is only visible  in special light.  The mystery deepens through us of the Latin word Mysterium, a term closely associated with alchemy and astrology.

Tip:  Had the company used the English or Romanian word for mystery, the name would loose part of its allure. When using Latin, however, be sure it doesn’t sound too pharmaceutical. Mysterium, with its lovely repetition of ‘m’ sounds, and the words association with magical arts, speaks more to a medieval scriptorium than an aisle at the drugstore. 

Hexameter

As the writer Robert Louis Stevenson once famously said, “wine is bottled poetry”. For this reason, poetic terms can be a good source for wine naming. If you  go this route, skip the obvious — names like Lyric, Stanza, and so on. Go for terms or images less well known. Hexameter, a named use by Ovid Wineries for one of its wine brands, is an especially strong choice, as hexameter is the meter that Ovid used for his sprawling narrative poem, Metamorphosis.

Tip: This name works especially well as it extends the wineries name — Ovid wines — and also cues to the name of a literary work that speaks to one of wine’s chief functions — to transform our mood or state-of-being.

Fleur de Mer

If you find yourself in the position of naming an Old World Wine, you can be a little bit adventurous and go beyond the convention of naming a wine after family name, chateaux, or reference to the wine itself. Fleur de Mer, a winery and wine grown in Provence, does just that. Besides being lyrical and lovely, the name evokes curiosity: what is a flower of the sea?

Tip: Old World wine naming can take a page from the New World wine naming playbook. You don’t have to go all “Bull’s Blood” and “Sledgehammer” in the name, but try taking a step or two away from Old World wine naming. This can invite in casual wine enthusiasts who otherwise might be intimidated by an Old World naming convention.

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