Meridiana - What's in a name
|Author: Mark Miceli-Farrugia|
A marketing student recently requested me to explain how the names involved in the Meridiana venture were conceived. Was it just luck, a flight of fancy, or profound planning? Well, it was a combination of all three, synthesised through intuition with a little help from family and informed friends.
Projecting a positive image
In designing a brand, a marketer seeks to create a positive image or personality for a company or product. This image represents a promise to consumers of what they might expect from the consumption experience. This image has two aspects: the rational – the use of a recognizable logo or brand-name on a product-label; and the emotional – the reassuring perceptions, ideas and feelings about a company or its products communicated by its brand-names and promotional messaging. Successful brand-names are usually memorable, pronounceable, and legally protectable, and tend to highlight the venture’s mission-statement and competitive advantages.
Meridiana’s mission statement
Meridiana Wine Estate* was established with the purpose of creating “World-Class Wines of Maltese Character.” The venture was conceived in the late 1980s. During these years, Malta’s then PN government committed itself to joining the European Union evolving nearby to its north. My earlier experiences within the wine sector had persuaded me that Malta’s Central Mediterranean location – its calcareous soils and its predictable, bi-seasonal, temperate climate – should enable our country to grow and produce wines according to internationally recognised, European standards.
Further investigation confirmed that high-quality wines could be produced in Malta, providing that one planted internationally recognised, wine-grape varieties rather than the islands’ traditional table/eating-grapes. Research also dictated that, owing to Malta’s relatively windswept and rain-scarce climate, such wine-grape varieties necessitated trellising and constant irrigation. Besides, the resultant crop required pressing, fermentation and storage under state-of-the-art, refrigerated conditions. The financial investment necessitated by the latter was so substantial that I was obliged to secure the technological backing of a distinguished, international, winemaking partner – Marchese Piero Antinori. This helped guarantee our commercial bank’s financial support.
Location-inspired company name & logo
After many months of consideration, it was determined that our company’s name would be ‘Meridiana’ (south) - to endorse Malta’s prospective membership of the EU’s respected winemaking regime to its north. Concurrently, Marchese Antinori observed that the Latin roots of the word ‘Meridiana’ also signified ‘sundial’: this prompted our subsequent use of the sundial image on Meridiana winery’s façade and on the company’s logo. In creating the product names for our individual wines, we turned to the history of Malta for inspiration.
Malta is unique among the European group of nations due to its people’s Semitic roots and language. Between 700-200BC, our archipelago was occupied from Carthage, Tunisia by the Phoenicians, a trading people who originated in what is today Lebanon. These Phoenician traders were credited with propagating around the Mediterranean the art of viticulture, notably the prized cultivation of Vitis Vinifera (wine-grape) varieties. This distinctiveness inspired us to name our wines after the gods and goddesses worshipped by the polytheistic Phoenicians in Malta.
Whilst attending a Wine-Tasting course at the University of Bordeaux in 1991, I learnt that an unwritten rule existed: red wines possessing “more body, alcohol, tannin and intense flavours” - such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah - are often described as “masculine”; white wines perceived as contrastingly “delicate and very specific” in their “restrained style” are deemed as “feminine”. Hence, our decision to associate Phoenician gods with red wines and Phoenician goddesses with white wines.
Generation of product names
I therefore enlisted the help of the University of Malta’s Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, Dr Anthony J. Frendo, to suggest the names of Phoenician gods and goddesses worshipped in Malta during the Punic period. This enabled us to adopt the names of Melqart and Isis (respectively the Phoenician god and goddess of sailors), and Bel and Astarte (respectively the Phoenician god and goddess of fertility) for our introductory ranges of monovarietals. Later, we also developed the name Baltis (the Phoenician sun goddess) for a sun-dried, white Moscato wine, and the name Fenici (Malta’s name for its Phoenician forefathers) for our intermediate range of wines.
Names with a theme - outside-the-mould
As may be expected, all businesses inevitably encounter surprise circumstances when decisions are forced on them. In our case, this occurred when Meridiana’s oenologists concluded that the superior quality of the company’s red varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - warranted the development of proprietary labels for each of these premium wines. Since it was difficult to research an appropriate Phoenician name within the short time permitted, I was obliged to resort to two spontaneous, ‘Latinized’ names inspired by Meridiana’s technological achievements: Celsius, which ‘highlights the central role played by temperature control in Meridiana’s winemaking philosophy’; and Nexus, which ‘celebrates the marriage between Malta’s Old World geographical location and Meridiana’s New World vinicultural technology’.
Meridiana’s expansion and recognition
Today, the Meridiana brand and sundial logo are featured on every wine-bottle produced and sold from the estate. Thanks to their international recognition, Meridiana’s wines are proudly endorsed in top restaurants in Malta and around Europe. In hindsight, sometimes luck, a flight of fancy, profound planning, and intuition are the perfect recipe for a successful brand!
*For more information about the Meridiana story and about Meridiana’s wines, please consult http://meridiana.com.mt/the-estate/wines/