David Cope: How to name a wine
By David Cope, 26 February 2015
You’re a winemaker. Now let’s say you’ve made something good. In fact, it’s a cracker. You’ve found some undiscovered vineyard and coaxed it into glory. You’ve harvested the fruit and watched as it developed into something special in the winery. Now all you’ve got to do is come up with a suitable name. Oh, and a label that kicks ass.
The recent Wine Label Design Awards were (hopefully) a reminder to the industry that packaging matters almost as much as the product itself. I know several wine consumers that openly refuse to purchase a wine they admit is delicious, purely because of a hideous label. But before you brief some hotshot design company you’ve got to come up with a name.
That name must be distinctive, different to the majority of your competitors and ideally something that encourages the consumer to take a leap and purchase something they’re unfamiliar with. It should also be memorable, if you’re hoping for a repeat purchase or any chance of peer recommendation.
What, you’ve got it? Unfortunately I’ve checked and The Chocolate Block is already taken, so you’ve got to try harder. Or you can just follow this simple decision-tree for wine name generation: Firstly, if the vineyard or farm you’ve picked from has a cool name associated to it, you’re sorted. Think Skurfberg, Kaaimansgat, Radio Lazarus, Ghost Corner, Koggelbos or Husseys Vlei.
If you’re sadly not lucky enough to have that, you’ll have to think of a good word or phrase that has a mild relevance to either your harvesting implements, nearby river, local wildlife, mountains, favourite surf spot or movie, or some 19th century Norwegian exploration vessel. Go with it and you could be the next Secateurs, Restless River, Jackal Bird, Signal Hill, Full Stop Rock, Hannibal or FRAM.
Not working? Pick a colour! Well, any colour, as long as it isn’t black since that’s getting a touch confusing with Black Pearl, Black Block, Black Rock, Black Lady, Black Label, Black Granite, Blackwater, Black Oystercatcher, Black Elephant and Penny Black on the market already, just to name a few.
No favourite colour? Fear not, there’s still hope. You can always fall back on a historical figure, family name, significant year in history or the old mnemonic using either your initials or those of the varietals. Nope? Take the name of your nearest town and add the word vallei, kop, rivier or berg after it. No joy with that? Fine then, do you have a dog? Does it have a cool name?
You know what, it doesn’t really matter anyways. Once your wine has achieved cult status nobody will care what the story behind it is. Naming is important, but then there’s also distribution, and without that you’re nowhere. But that’s a whole other story.
- David Cope owns and runs Publik wine bar in Cape Town which focuses on unusual and interesting wines. When he’s not pouring the stuff he attempts to make wine more fun and approachable as a contributing writer to various local magazines.