Working in the wine PR/marketing biz, we talk to new winery owners a lot about their names and brand messaging. And while we had planned on disclosing our thoughts on this subject here, we actually hit upon a fantastic beverage marketing agency in British Columbia that shares our stance entirely and does the job for us.
Earlier this year I purchased a book of (non-alcohol-related) packaging design studies from a New York design company, R.Bird. This collection of studies inspired me to collect the various research that we have done about the various aspects of wine branding, packaging, web design, etc. into one place. We wanted to share this research in hopes that it will help anyone who is starting a new winery or considering a rebrand/repositioning of their existing winery.
- Hired Guns Creative, “How To Name A New Winery,” November 18, 2011
Hired Guns has gone through an extensive analysis of winery names, the types of names (e.g. based on family names, based on geography, flora and fauna, music references, etc.), the advantages and disadvantages of each, and a few favorites. For example, check out their color wheel that references winery names based on color. (Notice: not a lot of winery names living in the turquoise or purple regions!)
So what makes for a successful winery name? In a nutshell: A true story, something easy to pronounce and easy to remember. (Unless, of course, you’re Sine Qua Non. See below.) Also, it should go without saying that the wine in the bottle needs to taste good. Without that, no amount of marketing will help.
Below, a few favorite winery names and a peek at the story behind them.
Andrew Jones is something of a man-about-town on the Central Coast wine scene. As a Field Representative for one of the U.S.’s major vine nurseries, he helps plant and manage vineyards across the California and beyond. Having stood in nearly every vineyard in the state, Andrew has a knack for spotting untapped potential and makes stellar wines accordingly. The name “Field Recordings” came to reflect his almost scientific approach to capturing the essence of each place in his wines.
Field Recordings is the personal catalog of the people and places we value most. Diamonds in the rough: sites that are unknown or under-appreciated but hold enormous untapped potential. As friendships are made and opportunities are embraced, we produce small quantities of soulful wines from these unusual, quiet vineyards.
The back label for Field Recordings wines is austere – no tasting notes or ostentatious descriptions of the finish – yet exhaustive, with plenty of details to geek out on.
FICTION wines, which are also made by Andrew Jones, are completely different. Naming the label “FICTION” was in direct reaction to the factual, scientific nature of Field Recordings. “There is no fluffy story with Field Recordings,” he says. “The back label shares just the facts. FICTION on the other hand is a mysterious blend or a whole bunch of random varieties from random places that we mention nothing about.” Hence, the tongue-in-cheek approach to FICTION’s back label.
Cypher Winemaker Christian Tietje is known for being a larger-than-life personality in the Paso Robles wine biz. So it surprised a lot of folks when he changed the name of his popular Four Vines label to Cypher Wines, implying something obscure and hidden. Thankfully, the Cypher Wines website sums up Tietje’s rationale in his signature, outspoken style:
“The thought behind naming our new label Cypher was that the process of growing and creating a fantastic wine is like unlocking a puzzle or riddle. There is no play book, no recipe….whenever you deal with mother nature, you are certain to be thrown curve balls. Winemaking is no exception, and without blending enough art into the science you will fall short of extraordinary. Winemaking by the numbers equals boring, uninteresting, ‘safe’ wines. Yaaaaaaaawwwwwn.”
“Dark Star” was put on a long list of potential names for the winery because Norm [Norm Benson, Dark Stars' Owner and Winemaker] believed it symbolized his goal of producing ‘stellar’ red wines, or ‘dark stars…’
“‘Angeli d’Altri Tempi,’ ‘angels from other times,’ symbolizes how people that you have come in contact with, your parents, siblings, and friends have all left some “imprint” on your personality and your values. Their influence, collectively, make you who you are today. The three panels that encase the dark star symbolize the past, the present, and the future. Dark Star believes you must never under-value, or forget the positive influence people have had on your life in the past. You should not take for granted the help and support you receive from the people in your present life, and of course, the mystery of whom you will meet in the future.”
“Autonom is a project of passion for Winemaker Paul Wilkins, which reflects Paul’s love for Rhône varietal wines and cuvées. This love was born during his work as a harvest intern in the cellar with John Alban at Alban Vineyards while he was still in college.Paul remained with Alban through seven celebrated vintages before opening his own agency, Wilkins Vinotech, which provides winery and vineyard consulting services to existing and start-up wine brands. In 2005, he joined in a business partnership with longtime friend James Ontiveros as Winemaker for Alta Maria Vineyards, which focuses on Santa Maria Valley-designate Burgundy varieties. In 2010, Paul débuted his own Rhône-focused brand with varietal wines and cuvées from contrasting sites throughout California. The brand name, AUTONOM, refers to Paul’s freedom from a long history of working for other producers.“
Naming a winery after an obscure, impossible-to-remember-and-pronounce phrase from a dead language should have been economic suicide for Sine Qua Non‘s Owner and Winemaker, Manfred Krankl. But the contents of his bottles are so fiendishly sought-after that no one cares about the name; in fact, perhaps its obscurity makes it even more desirable. According to an interview with Krankl in Forbes several years ago, Sine Qua Non is
“Latin for something essential (literally ‘without which nothing’). Krankl claims not to remember how, or why, he and wife Elaine came up with it. (They pronounce it ‘sinny-kwah-non.’)”
- Richard Nalley, “The Krankl Cult,” Forbes Life, September 6, 2008
Even after 18 years, the literary, painterly Krankl still does his own artwork for each Sine Qua Non label. He and Elaine also still do their own marketing, which…really doesn’t look like marketing at all. Nor does it need to;With a microscopic waiting list, an annual production of 3,500 cases, and a handful of previously released wines that fetch north of $3,500, Sine Qua Non’s cult status is secured for the long haul.