I guaran-damn-tee you no naming consultant was hired or harmed in the development of this wine brand:
The calligraphy is teeny, so I'll help you out: It's called Dead Letter Office. And that's how I know it was named internally, probably by the owners themselves. If a naming consultant (such as yours truly) proposed using the D-word to name a wine, she would be mocked, vilified, and sent slinking from the room. Dead, professionally speaking, is what she'd be.
But you know what? I like this name. I admire its Gogolian-Melvillean allusions, not to mention its unblinking acceptance of mortality. (A mortality that, let it be noted, could conceivably be hastened by overconsumption of the product, whose alcohol content is a robust 15 percent.)
I even like the ruminative, vaguely wistful story on the label:
"Return to sender, address unknown", or so the song goes. But what happens to mail of abstruse, or absent, address or origin? Enter the brave clerks of the Dead Letter Office. Only they have the authority to open undeliverable mail, strictly forbidden to read any more of the communication than absolutely necessary to facilitate safe delivery. Thanks to them, every year thousands of displaced letters find their way home.
None of that overtones of burnt coffee or subtly evocative of Milk Duds or seven rolling acres of former swampland blah blah blah. Nothing useful, either—true enough. But I can't help feeling that anyone confident enough to create that name and commit to that story has nothing to fear from the wine snobs. (One of those wine snobs called the 2005 Dead Letter Office "numbing." Well, sure. What part of D-E-A-D did he not understand?)
Here's some background: Dead Letter Office is a Shiraz blend from Henry's Drive in South Australia. I spotted it at BevMo. I didn't buy it, but don't read anything into that: I'm not much of a wine drinker, and $33.99 seems like a lot to pay for Bottled Headache. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't be thrilled and honored to name your winery or wine brand for you.
P.S. Dead Letter Office is also the name of a 1998 movie, a 1987 album by R.E.M., and this appealingly melancholy website.
I guess I'm a bit perverse, because I'd buy it just for the name. That's how I discovered a nice table chardonnay, Fat Bastard.
Posted by: deja pseu | November 25, 2008 at 11:55 AM
Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men? ... On errands of life, these letters speed to death.
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!
Posted by: Bob Cumbow | November 25, 2008 at 04:23 PM
@Bob: I could respond to your comment, but I would prefer not to.
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | November 25, 2008 at 04:31 PM
We keep a fair number of spirits around the house unopened purely for their name value, Monty Python's Holy (Gr)Ail primary among them. On the more aspirational side, though, are two wines displayed proudly (and hopefully): Poet's Leap and The Novelist.
Posted by: Bill Brohaugh | November 26, 2008 at 03:58 AM
Argh! Bartleby. The scourge of my undergrad existence. I was forced to read it no less than four separate times over the course of four years, and the intensity of my hatred for the story grew exponentially each time (it's now approximately the size of the sun).
That being said... it's hard to say no to a wine that features the word "abstruse" on the label.
Posted by: TwoBusy | November 26, 2008 at 05:49 AM
It may very well be that with the plethora of winerys and the myriad of wines in recent years maverick names for wines are becoming a necessity.
Posted by: Nick | November 26, 2008 at 06:40 AM
@Bill: Ditto here. Gathering dust in the basement are a bottle of Well Red and a bottle of Screw Kappa Napa (yes, the latter has a screw-cap). And I love He'Brew, "the Chosen Beer."
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | November 26, 2008 at 07:19 AM
Maybe their niche market is professional namers who don't like wine...and you've fallen right into their trap!
Posted by: Kelly Parkinson | November 26, 2008 at 08:02 AM
Yippee! I managed to guess it was an Australian wine before you revealed it. They just have a knack for entertaining wine nomenclature. This is not the only "dead" wine in Australia - d'Arenberg makes a Dead Arm Shiraz as well, which hints at more than just a bottled headache!
Posted by: Jessica | November 26, 2008 at 09:52 AM
Let's not forget the Australian wine label Suxx.
Posted by: The Name Inspector | November 30, 2008 at 09:01 PM