What’s in a name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately. Especially about what they mean and how they define you – and how changing a name really affects you.

You see, I recently got married and have decided to take my husband’s name. So I am no longer a Harrison, instead I have moved down the alphabet to become a Symington. A Symington de Macedo to be precise – yes, I have what seems to be the longest surname ever. At the time it felt like such a simple decision to change my name, but what does it really mean?

In wine terms, name is king. Whether it’s the actual brand name or simply the grape variety or region on the label, it defines what you are getting inside the bottle. Ok, there are always exceptions to the rule (and particularly if you ask us wine geeks) – but in the most general terms, everyone knows what you mean by Jacobs Creek, Sauvignon Blanc or Rioja and knows what to expect when you open the bottle.

So where does that leave me? Do names define people in the same way? And if so, will changing my name affect people’s perception of me?

I was at a primary school where everyone was seated alphabetically in the classroom according to their surname. So, now I wouldn’t be among my friends in the Hs but would find myself further back in the Ss. At first this doesn’t sound like a big change, but then when you consider that my friends throughout my school life predominantly had surnames beginning with H, F or J, I wonder what different influences on my life people with R, S or T surnames might have been and how that might have affected who I have become now.

Of course, later in life friendships aren’t predicated alphabetically and so changing my name won’t affect that, but perhaps it might affect other things?

Symington de Macedo is quite a change from my old common-or-garden English surname. Now it speaks of an exotic mix of Scottish and Portuguese – something I am anything but. Will that make me a surprise when people meet me – like ordering a bottle of Alvarinho but when it turns up it is actually Chardonnay? Of course, in our profession it is the Symington part of the name that grabs attention – and therefore my now-relationship to one of the most famous port families. So I have to wonder, will this association be a help or a hindrance for me? Will I be able to build my own reputation, or will Miguel’s family’s reputation always precede my own?

In wine terms, brand names very rarely change. But there are a few examples of it happening – probably one of the most famous being the New Zealand winery Montana which rebranded as Brancott Estate four years ago. It had operated under Brancott in the USA (Montana of course being the Big Sky state) and so Pernod Ricard, the brand owner, decided to rebrand in their other markets so they would just have one brand globally. It must have been a huge undertaking for Pernod Ricard, and I’m sure sales must have suffered in the immediate aftermath but they did it anyway and I am sure in the long term it has been of benefit.

And so if a global giant like Pernod Ricard can do it, then so can I. There’s a lot of form filling out and phone calls to make ahead of me before I am officially Emma Symington de Macedo on my passport, driving licence and everywhere else, but I’ll get there soon enough. And then I’ll see if life down the back of the classroom is any different from what it was up front.

Emma (Symington de Macedo)

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