Translation in viticulture: cultural difficulties

Published on 15/05/2023

Viticulture is a discipline that enjoys prestige and a millenary tradition in the European countries bordering the Mediterranean. Especially the south, such as the Provence area of France and Spain, has countless hectares of vineyards and large wineries where the best wine in the world is produced. In recent decades, the export of wine to other countries where oenology has a very weak tradition has increased. Even beyond Europe's borders, the demand for quality wines is growing every day, generating unprecedented levels of sales in the industry.

The expansion of this product has in turn created the need to export all the terminology of viticulture to countries and languages in which it had no previous presence, or at least very little. In this context, major wine exporters often call on the services of translation companies, which are faced with the modern challenge of creating a text capable of conveying all the local knowledge.

Índice de contenidos

Index of contents

Index du contenu


  1. The problem of cultural acceptance
  2. Technical language deficiencies
  3. What solutions have been proposed?

The problem of cultural acceptance

Many of the regions that now import wine have been major producers of other alcoholic beverages such as beer, whisky, rum or any of the existing varieties. The prolongation of these traditions in their historical societies has created an idea of drinking that is close to these variants. Terminology, processes, elements, ingredients, instruments... All these fields differ depending on the product, so that when translating winegrowing knowledge into the languages of countries with no tradition, we cannot always find the precise and necessary words to refer to certain realities.

On the other hand, the growing export of wine has turned wines into a fully commercial product, which implies designing marketing and advertising strategies adapted to the collective imaginary of each market. Translation agencies must find the methods and tools to ensure that informative and advertising texts accompanying the product are accepted by potential customers. It is undoubtedly an exercise in cultural immersion in which, unfortunately, the usual linguistic resources may not be available.

Technical language deficiencies

The same barrier that applies to translations on viticulture in the cultural sphere also applies in fields such as science. The spread of wine throughout the world has aroused the interest of food laboratories. This is not to mention the quality controls that products must undergo at health agencies through clinical tests. Once again, the lexical precariousness of certain languages (as a direct consequence of their culture) makes the work of professionals difficult. And once again, translation services are responsible for translating the source texts into the target languages.

Countries such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece have high-quality studies and research that also serve as a knowledge base for countries wishing to develop a strong wine industry. However, languages such as Spanish, French, Italian or Portuguese have specific words for this discipline in their lexicon, an advantage that does not exist in languages such as English or German. Once again, translators of these texts will have to grapple with the need to find new ways to convey that knowledge efficiently.

What solutions have been proposed?

Possibly the passage of time and the winegrowing experience of these countries will be the best solution to this problem, as they will acquire a vocabulary specific to this discipline. But in the meantime, it is necessary to propose some alternatives to help overcome this hurdle.

Neologisms and foreign words have always been an effective remedy at times in the history of languages when similar problems have arisen. This case should not be an exception.

In other words, critical texts with annotations and translation aids are frequent in fields where the target language is lexically deficient. Recourse to these glossaries of terms and annotations could be a transitional option to the current absence.

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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