Patterns – How To Name A New Winery



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.

Winery Naming

Naming needs to be play a large role in the thought process of anyone who is starting up a new winery. The winery’s name should capture the imagination and connect with the customers it wants to reach.

Naming is also something that you want to get right the first time rather than have to go through a costly renaming process down the road.

Wineries (and companies in general) miss a huge opportunity when they fail to communicate the meaning of a new name. Customers will remember your name better if they understand its rationale.

Is our opinion there are seven essential qualities of a great name:

  1. Meaningful – communicates the essence of the brand, supports the image that the winery wants to convey
  2. Distinctive – unique, easy to remember, spell, pronounce; differentiated from the competition
  3. Future-oriented – accommodates change in the structure or focus of the winery
  4. Modular – facilitates easy building of brand extensions
  5. Protectable – can be owned and trademarked; the domain name is available
  6. Positive – has positive connotations in the relevant markets and doesn’t have negative connotations
  7. Visual – well-suited to graphic presentation (logo, text, etc.)

Keep these in mind as you read through the categories of names in this article. It’s rare that a name has all seven essential qualities.

Analysis

So… What do we see when we look at the patterns of BC Winery names?

I’ve analyzed the names of the wineries in this province, (I found a total of 214 active wineries,) and I created a number of categories based on the patterns that I observed. In completely un-scientific fashion, here are the categories I came up with:

  • Geographic References: 87 of the 214 wineries in BC use a geographic reference in their name
  • Use of Family Names: 33 of 214
  • Fauna: 24 of 214
  • Historical References: 23 of 214
  • Metaphorical / Conceptual / Obscura: 22 of 214
  • Flora: 19 of 214
  • Use of Colours: 18 of 214
  • Non-English (excluding proper nouns): 17 of 214
  • Descriptive: 15 of 214
  • Use of Numbers: 9 of 214
  • Spirituality References: 7 of 214
  • Myths/Fables: 7 of 214
  • Fabricated Names: 6 of 214
  • Meteorology: 6 of 214
  • Music References: 5 of 214
  • “Wow, Look At That View!”: 4 of 214
  • Astronomy References: 3 of 214

Some names have been put into multiple categories. 65 of the 214 names fell into two categories. Example: CedarCreek Estate Winery falls into the Flora category and the Geographic References category. Some names are definitely more in one category than another but I think they still deserve to be listed in both: Dragonfly Hill Vineyard (Fauna and Geography) and Black Cloud Winery (Colours and Meteorology.)

Nine of the 214 names fell into three categories. And two names (Vista D’oro and Pentage) fell into four categories each.

I’m a bit unsure of the best way to display this data. I tried a standard bar chart:

winery-names-by-category

However, I don’t think this is the best way to display this data because some of the winery names fit into multiple categories.

A tag cloud would work but I just can’t bring myself to add one to our site because they’re just so 2003 :)

While working on a different project I came across the idea of a filterable list and thought that it would work as a method of displaying this data. Each winery name is tagged with the category name(s) and the list can be filtered by any category.

I think this method does a fairly decent job of displaying the data. The only thing I would change would be to add a precise count of how many names are in each category but the programming required for that is beyond the scope of this blog post.

Links to each winery’s website have been provided whenever possible. You can hover over many of the winery names for more information about why they’ve been classified a certain way.

(It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed a couple of wineries or I might have included a couple that are no longer operational. Please let me know if you spot any errors.)

Give this a try – click on any of the headers to filter the list.

Names Of British Columbia Wineries

 


I’d like to discuss each category of winery names. I’ve given a brief description of each category, as well as advantages, disadvantages, and my favourites. (And to be clear: these are my favourite names from each category – that doesn’t necessarily mean that they make my favourite wines.)

Geographic References

It’s no surprise that this is the largest category of winery names. With the terroir of each winery being responsible for such a large part of the unique flavour of the wines it’s no wonder that so many wineries want to focus on the geographic elements that make them unique.

Advantages:

- lasting power; geographic elements seldom change
- if you ever decide to sell the winery the name probably won’t get in the way of the sale
- many geographic elements have romantic connotations that could carry over to the perception of the winery (i.e. gulf islands, beautiful hills, ridges, etc.)
- every winery has geography – if you’re stuck trying to think of a name for a winery it’s easy to turn to your surroundings for inspiration

Disadvantages: With this being the largest category of winery names in BC it’s easy to get lost in the mix. If you choose a name that makes you one of the trees in the forest you may well spend the rest of your marketing budget trying to stand out.

Favourites: I tend to favour the poetic names in this category: Sea Cider, Elephant Island, Cherry Point, Merridale

Family Names

Again, it should come as no surprise that this category of names is quite popular among BC wineries. Naming a winery after the founders, owners, or key players is a very established part of the European wine tradition.

Advantages:

- huge ego/confidence boost having a winery named after you
- might be easy to protect

Disadvantages:

- inextricably tied to a real person; selling your winery to someone with a different name could be problematic
- pronunciation can be challenging with certain names
- customers can have difficulties remembering how to spell certain names, which can cause problems when they’re searching for your wines later on

Favourites: I gravitate toward the names from this list that are simple, memorable, and easy to pronounce: Herder, Van Western, Isabella

Fauna

There’s no doubt that the rise of critter labels over the last 10 years has influenced people starting wineries. To reinforce this point, 21 of the 24 wineries in this category feature an animal on their labels.

Advantages:

- most animals have fairly defined symbolism in Western culture (although if you decide to start exporting wines to Asia, watch out because those symbolic meanings are non consistent East to West)
- strong brand recognition is possible here: “Give me a bottle of that wine with the turtle on the label.”

Disadvantages: there is a lot of talk in the wine industry that critter labels have had their day and are waning

Favourites: Burrowing Owl, Black Widow, Quail’s Gate

History

This category of winery names has been growing steadily over the last ten years or so. We’ve seen something of a formula develop for branding wineries using historical references: dig up an interesting, often obscure, historical tidbit from the area or the winery owners’ background, extrapolate that into a somewhat irreverent, mildly titillating or slightly humorous story and build the brand / labels to match. Examples: Blasted Church, Dirty Laundry, Moon Curser.

Advantages:

- can emphasize a connection to the land, the region, or the winemaking tradition
- can be twisted into an effective “hook” that becomes the basis of the brand strategy

Disadvantages: several of the names in this category require substantial explanation – hopefully their customers are willing to wait out the explanation.

Favourites: Blasted Church, Dirty Laundry, Kettle Valley

Metaphorical/Conceptual/Obscura

This is one of the most interesting category of winery names. These names are easily the edgiest, most modern winery names in the province and the wineries with these names have some of the best marketing campaigns (and design in general) of all the wineries in the province.

The names in this category give an instant impression of the personality of an entire winery’s brand. Haywire? Misconduct? Those wineries probably have an excellent sense of humour and don’t feel the need to adhere to the conventions of the wine world.

They also lead themselves well to marketing campaigns. Laughing Stock’s entire marketing campaign, really, their entire brand, revolves around the concept contained within their name. Therapy and Mistaken Identity are similar, although perhaps to a slightly lesser extent.

Advantages: Names in this category give the best opportunity for an ultra-cohesive brand where every component of the brand can be focused on one idea.

Disadvantages: In some ways, choosing a name in this category is putting all of your eggs in one basket. So your concept or story better be good. It better “have legs,” as they say. And it better resonate with the wine-buying public.

Favourites: So many from this category! Laughing Stock, Therapy, Dirty Laundry, Church & State, Intrigue, Rigamarole

Flora

As farming is at the heart of owning a winery it makes perfect sense that many owners gravitate toward plant-related names.

A large portion of the names in this category refer to plants other than grape vines – often plants that are defining characteristics of the property: 22 Oaks, Garry Oaks, Larch Hills, Poplar Grove.

Advantages:

- like the Geographic References, names in this category can have a certain amount of lasting power. If there are lots of poplars on the grounds of your winery, chances are good that there will still be lots of poplars 40 years from now.
- the name wouldn’t hinder the sale of your winery
- these names speak to the connection to the land, honour what came before

Disadvantages:

- if you’re not careful these names can have a somewhat generic feeling to them. Many of them make me think of housing developments in the Lower Mainland that are named after whatever used to be there before the townhouses were built (i.e. Oakridge, Walnut Grove, Cloverdale, Willowbrook, Brookswood, Alder Grove, etc.)

Favourites: Silver Sage, Thornhaven, Gray Monk

Colours

I found it particularly interesting to see which segments of the colour spectrum were represented within the winery names in this category. If you’re set on using a colour in the name of your winery, I’d suggest avoiding black, blue, or gold. Try out the un-tapped areas of the colour spectrum like Seafoam or Puce ;)

winery-names-colour-wheel

Also, I find it interesting that there are no wineries in BC using red or white in their names considering the prevalence of those two colours in the world of wine.

Advantages:

- colours have well-defined symbolic meanings in Western culture (red = passion, green = envy, purple = royalty/nobility, etc.) and those meanings can be utilized to your advantage when choosing a name
- colours also lend themselves well to poetic turns of phrase (i.e. “Emerald Coast”) that can be used to conjure up all sorts of pleasing imagery

Disadvantages: possible confusion among similar names (“Honey… I can’t remember… was that really great Pinot we had last month from Black Hills, Black Widow, Blackwood Lane, or Black Cloud?”)

Favourites: House of Rose, Gray Monk, Black Hills

Non-English, excluding Proper Nouns

Advantages:

- they can sound romantic, in a foreign way
- with the exception of two (Nk’Mip and Chandra), these names all tap into the European winemaking tradition

Disadvantages:

- for people who don’t speak the language they can be difficult to pronounce or remember
- for people who don’t care about the European winemaking tradition or are intimidated by it these names can sound stuffy, old-fashioned, and out of touch with the “new world” wine drinker

Favourites: Osoyoos Larose, Le Vieux Pin, Nk’Mip

Descriptive

The winery names in this category range from very literal descriptions (The View Winery) to more figurative (Bounty Cellars, Rustico).

Advantages:

- using a descriptive name for your winery allows you to paint whatever picture you want. A name like Rustic Roots gives a very clear impression of what the winery is like.
- also allows for figurative, poetic names like EauVivre and

Disadvantages: if you’re not very good with descriptive language your winery could end up with a dull name

Favourites: Bounty, Summerhill

Numbers

Advantages: having a number (an actual numeral) in the name of your winery can help it stand out from the crowd

Disadvantages: while the number in your name may be important to you it might not be easy for the general public to remember

Favourites: 8th Generation, Seven Stones, 40 Knots

Spirituality

Advantages: you have a chance to resonate with religious people

Disadvantages: there is a risk of turning off people who are not religious. Some demographic research into the religious beliefs of wine drinkers might be in order before choosing a name in this category.

Favourites: Blasted Church, Church & State

Myths & Fables

Advantages: as with Colours and Fauna, choosing a name that alludes to a well-known myth or fable allows you to tap into an existing symbolism.

Disadvantages: there’s a risk that people who aren’t familiar with the myth or fable that your name alludes to will not understand the name of your winery. (Insert rant about the decline of the modern education system here…)

Favourites: Perseus, Tantalus

Fabricated

Fabricated names are made-up words (like Kodak, Xerox, TiVo).

Advantages: usually distinct and copyrightable

Disadvantages: a winery may have to invest in educating its market about the nature of the business

Favourites: Glenterra, Carbrea, Damali

Meterology

I was actually surprised that there aren’t more wineries with names in this category, given how most winery owners I’ve ever talked to are obsessed with the weather :)

Advantages: names in this category can paint a vivid picture that could serve a winery well

Disadvantages: a name in this category runs the risk of sounding like small talk (weather being a typical topic for small talk)

Favourites: Howling Bluff, Black Cloud

Music, “What A View!”, and Astronomy

The advantage of these categories is that that there are very few wineries in BC with names in these categories.

Advantages: with very few names in these categories, choosing a name from one of these categories would help your winery stand out from the crowd.

Disadvantages: none come to mind.

Favourites:

- Music: Symphony Vineyards, Foxtrot Vineyards
- “What A View!”: Fairview, Meadow Vista
- Astronomy: Perseus

IN CONCLUSION

The importance of naming can not be overstated. Choosing a name for a new winery is an incredibly important decision that will affect many, many aspects of your business for years to come. It’s a decision that should be researched, tested, and, ultimately, guided by a professional who can employ a creative, disciplined, and strategic approach.

If you are involved in starting up a winery you’ve probably started to wrestle with these issues. If you’d like some help with this work, please get in contact with us.