NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Want to drink in Chaos Theory? Or perhaps you'd care to give your palate an Educated Guess? We're talking wines, of course, specifically a new breed of quirkily named wines that aim to make you think while you drink.
"I'm a big believer in the theater of the mind," says Jerry Prial, who decided to call his wine Debauchery to tickle the intellect as well as the palate. "People — when they see the wine, they really start to laugh and they smile and that's what we wanted."
Prial founded Portsmouth, N.H.-based Gerard Wine Company after spending 30 years in the beer brewing industry. The wines are imported from Chile and he picked the name Debauchery — extreme indulgence of sensuality — as an antidote to the wine world's "mysterious and intimidating" ambiance. "I'm trying to fight through the clutter, all the thousands of different wines out there," he says.
Unlike the critter-inclined labels that were hot a few years ago, brainteaser labels are more about "Aha!" than "Aww."
Take Chaos Theory, a zinfandel blend from Brown Estate Vineyards in the Napa Valley.
"The concept in a nutshell is something that we see in the vineyard," says Coral Brown, brand manager and one of three siblings running the winery founded by their parents. "It's about discovering order in seemingly random events."
The wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, the king of grapes, and zinfandel, which Brown calls "the court jester." They're opposites but complement each other, she says. "The wine is just a crowd-pleaser. Of course, we've got a lot of meteorologists and economists who are big fans of the wine. Anybody who really is into the unpredictable nature of things."
Educated Guess, made by the Roots Run Deep Winery, a small operation also in the valley, also is named after the nature of winemaking.
A bottle of wine, points out winery owner and president Mark Albrecht, is the culmination of scores of decisions — where to plant, how to grow, when to pick, how to age, where to age.
"Winemaking truly is an educated guess. There's no right or wrong to it," says Albrecht. In a nod to the "educated" part of making wine — the science that winemaking judgments are based on — the labels also carry a selection of winemaking formulas, an approach that has drawn a surprisingly warm reception.
"I always thought the label was pretty cool, but I never realized the passion that people were going to have for the package," Albrecht said.
Seeing what vintners will come up with next is always interesting, says Wilfred Wong, cellar master for California-based retailer Beverages & More.
"Some of them get hot for a while and they fizzle out and some of them continue to grow and move on," he notes. "You never know what sticks. It's like throwing spaghetti against the wall."
These days, one of the most important things on a bottle is the price sticker, notes Wong. Consumers have become more tuned into the value.
So how much is in a name?
Winemakers agree, if you don't have something good in the glass, not much.
"Debauchery is a great name, but if I don't have really good wine in the bottle... People will buy anything once. The trick is to get them to buy twice," says Prial. "If there's good wine in the bottle they will."