How do wines get their names?

By / Magazine / December 6th, 2016 / 17

While I wish I could pull a Penn & Teller and reveal the magic behind the trick of wine nomenclature, there really isn’t any. No matter what label you’re looking at, its primary name is (or was) either a person, a place or a thing.

People make wine and sometimes they become pretty good at it, so it makes sense that winemakers, or winery owners, would want to ensure their fans knew which wines were theirs. Nothing does that better than slapping their names at the top of their wine’s front panel.

Though there are famous winemaking families just about everywhere that grapes grow, European wines have always relied heavily on family surnames, especially in places like France’s Burgundy region where vineyards can have multiple owners, and recognizing who makes both the delicious (and the dodgy) can save you from a glass full of mediocrity.

Often the winery itself is the star. Again, many European winemakers have taken advantage of their centuries of history by naming their wines after their posh and pricey real estate. Just look to France’s Bordeaux region, where everything’s château this and château that. However, Europe doesn’t own the patent on pushing their property. It doesn’t matter if it’s Australia, California or Canada; if a wine’s name has vineyard or winery in it, it’s named after a vineyard or winery.

When it comes to things, most are either invented in a boardroom by marketing types or conceived after a few pints at the local pub. I enter into evidence the Fat Bastard and Ménage à Trois brands. When you can’t lean on who you are, or your geography, you just make something up which often works like a charm, especially with the coveted wine-loving millennials.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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