Tag Archives: Symington

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)

Schrödinger’s cat, Symington’s cork and fine wine

It all began with a discussion about Schrödinger’s cat. Why we were discussing the cat has long since been lost at the bottom of a bottle of wine, but there we were trying to explain the concept of quantum mechanics to monkeyAlex. Now, the idea that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time, and it is not until you open the box that you can prove the cat is dead or alive is confusing at the best of times. After a few glasses of wine it proved to be a little too confusing – resulting in many cries of “don’t kill the cat” and “call the RSPCA!”. Confusion reigned until my boyfriend Miguel came up with a metaphor much more understandable for a winemonkey – and a concept that has since been named ‘Symington’s cork’. You don’t know if a wine is corked until you open it, so you can consider an unopened bottle to be simultaneously corked and notcorked. “Aha” cried monkeyAlex (who is well known for her TCA-sniffing abilities) “I get it!”.

Cat in a box (not dead)

This concept of how perception affects reality came up again the other night with a discussion on fine wine. As anyone who has written an MW style essay, or indeed anyone who has written essays in the English school system knows, one of the most important things in an essay introduction is defining your terms. In the MW this could mean defining practicalities such as pruning or packaging or woollier concepts like the wine industry or fine wine. So, how do you define ‘fine wine’? Well, you could argue for a wine that sells well on the secondary market or you could make a more specific statement and say anything over a certain price is fine wine. But for me, fine wine isn’t about these concrete facts, but is something rather more nebulous. I always think of a fine wine as being somehow alive – they have a vibrancy to them and a feeling of joy and for me that is easily distinct from a more everyday wine that whilst may be enjoyable doesn’t elicit such an emotional response. And this brings us back to perception. If this vibrancy in the taste is a key requirement for me for a fine wine, then tasting the wine is what makes it fine. That is to say that in the bottle the wine is both fine and notfine – and it is only on tasting it that the quality level is perceived. Put another way, a bottle of wine has the potential to be fine but cannot be called fine until it is opened and enjoyed. If you’ve ever had a bottle that you kept for a special occasion and were really looking forward to drinking but then on opening found it to be dull and lifeless you might perhaps agree with me. And conversely there are those rare bottles that don’t promise much but on opening prove to be far more exciting and interesting than the outside promised.

And so to conclude with a quote from the Simpsons which nicely illustrates my thinking:

Lisa: If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around, does it make a sound?

Bart: Absolutely! [makes sound of a tree falling]

Lisa: But Bart, how can sound exist if there’s no one there to hear it?

Bart: Wooooooo…

Wooooo indeed. Here’s to fine wine, drinking it, perceiving it and enjoying it! For really, life is too short for bad wine.

Emma (scientific monkey)