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 selection of 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.

Endless Crush

The name, Endless Crush, is a play on words, referring both to the activity of crushing grapes during the wine-making process, as well as suggesting a feeling of an ongoing infatuation. The latter ties to how this light and refreshing rosé came by its name.

In 2004, Olivet Grange owner and winemaker, Kathleen Inman, was inspired to create a special edition rosé as she harvested her Pinot Noir grapes. It was the morning of her 20th wedding anniversary, and she was reminded of the first time she tried dry rosé during a romantic picnic in Provence with her husband, Simon.

For Inman, rosé wine, with its delicate blush pink color and light, floral overtones, would forever signify romance, enduring love, and her own “endless crush”… the man she married.

Traditionally, rosé wines are created by extracting the free-run juice during the early stages of production of other wines; Endless Crush however, is made as a separate wine entirely. This results in a far more complex flavor profile. Given that it’s been garnering numerous accolades for the past 20 years, it appears that customers and critics alike have their own “endless crush” on Endless Crush.

Tip: Great names often come with great stories. So, when developing names, try working backwards – start with a story. After identifying a story of interest, share it with someone or write it out. Be sure to repeat the details that matter. Don’t say “it was a beautiful evening” but describe what made the evening beautiful. Sometimes great names reveal themselves with this approach. This method works especially well when naming alcoholic beverages or fragrances.


Proxies uses traditional vintner techniques to create delicious non-alcoholic wine that’s made with grapes and teas, plus herbs and spices. The name, Proxies, is derived from “proxy,” which means to serve as a substitute or stand-in.

In this case, the name refers to the fact that Proxies’ wines serve as a substitute (or proxy) for traditional alcoholic wine. Today, the term “proxy” is used in the context of choosing a stand-in to cast one’s vote in an election, and in computer networking to securely transmit data. Both refer to someone or something that acts as an intermediary between two or more parties.

In a similar vein, Proxies may be said to act as an intermediary between traditional wine and non-alcoholic beverages, providing a stand-in which allows people to enjoy the experience of drinking wine, and enjoying its flavors, but without the associated negative effects of alcohol.

In keeping with the brand’s focus on providing high-quality, flavorful, and sophisticated non-alcoholic wines, the name conjures conveys the idea that this is a legitimate stand-in for traditional wine, with all the wonderful notes that wine drinkers expect.

Tip: Names like Sober Sips or Wine Sans Buzz would be pedestrian ways to suggest a non-alcoholic wine. Avoiding the obvious – in this case, focusing on the idea of “substitution” rather than obvious wine-related ideas like “sober” and “buzz free” – almost always results in a more memorable mark.

Sailor Seeks Horse

Specializing in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Paul and Gilli Lipscombe’s vineyard produces award-winning wines in Tasmania. With names such as Annus Mitis (“a mild year”), Clone 76, and Huldufólk (“hidden people”), their small-batch vintages are as inventive as they are delicious. Their vineyard name is intriguing too. The Lipscombe’s naming inspiration came from a handwritten notice – “sailor seeks horse” – pinned to the wall of their favorite café.

The creator of the notice was intrepid traveler, Bernie Harberts, who, after sailing solo around the world, and traversing the United States coast to coast on a mule, received an invitation to travel throughout Tasmania on a horse. Harberts never procured a horse, but undeterred, purchased a second-hand bicycle for $10 instead.

Inspired by Harberts’ determination and seeing their own somewhat unorthodox approach reflected in his story, the Lipscombes identified Sailor Seeks Horse as the perfect moniker for their vineyard.

Tip: The world is full of names. Even when not tasked with a specific naming project, remain alert to billboards, notes on supermarket walls, the messages zipping by on a passing vehicle. Look at menus, and discreetly listen on in conversations. Go to museums and study the titles of paintings. You never know where you might discover an interesting word or phrase might appear.

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.


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, and secondly, 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 sight 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?


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 Tasselled 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.


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.


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.


When Jidvei 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. 


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 name used by Ovid Napa Valley Winery 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 winery’s 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 names, chateaux, or references to the wines themselves. 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.