Wine Reflects Life: The Challenges Of Wine Translation in Chinese

Chin Communications Applied Patience To Translate The Rewards Of Patience Masterpiece For Penfolds

“It goes like a ferrari!” and a “runaway train”, and “sounds like a plane”, but “Houston, we have a problem” – you’d be mistaken in thinking this was a transportation or space travel text – perhaps not what you’d expect in a wine translation – but, gosh, you’d like to try the wines, wouldn’t you!

And these are just some of the challenges our team faced in tackling this large wine book translation.

Showbiz and sport make an appearance too, how about: “Cast it over Broadway, spread it over New York City, that John Webber would not leave a wine cellar!”; “philosophical football for wine writers”; “like the restrained exoticism of a veiled belly dancer” compared to “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, – you need to know about the arts, sport and history to work this out!

Understanding of technical terms is a must: “headed down/submerged cap fermentation”; “the richness of the wine means that it can be enjoyed now, but this is really vinocide”; “Peter Gago apologises for the 1953 looking so young”. What about a “butch and burly wine” and “plenty of stuffing to last the distance”. You’ll love a “full-bodied Aston Martin finish”, or would you prefer a “slightly funky, wet-dog matchstick, soft, pillowy wine”; or “cashmere-like tannins” with “plenty in the tank” but definitely not “rough as bags”.

Chin Communications completed its masterpiece translation for 2013 in record time – the first time this work has ever been translated – Penfolds Rewards of Patience – an iconic reference book on this globally well known brand which is produced every five years.

This seventh edition was particularly special, as tasting panels were put together around the world in the US, Europe, Australia and for the first time in China. Chinese wine experts like Chantal Chi, Yu Sen Lin, Ch’ng Poh Tiong, and Fongyee Walker tasted the range from the 1950s to 2012. The second half of the book deals with their opinions and ratings interlaced with historical events, and weather reports.

The book, written by Master Winemaker and Barossa ‘Baron’ Andrew Caillard, reminds us of the history of Penfolds and the wine producing regions in South Australia. It tells us the story of how Grange came about (from hiding) and looks at what was happening in Australia and around the world for each year’s vintage – a window into Australian culture and how wine has changed over the decades. The depth and breadth of knowledge required for such a project put great demands on our translators, especially in the research required. Our Chin team translated and then typeset the book with Marcus Liu and Charles Qin managing the entire project – 310 pages.

To give you some insight into the process, we adopted the following steps:

  • First of all we read the book and noted down any queries.
  • Developed a glossary for the project, ranging from brands, wine varieties, vineyard and geographical names, historical figures, sensory and tasting terms to people’s names – not easy. Even within the Penfolds website and from our experience there are sometimes multiple existing translations or renderings – which one to choose, for example Mourvedro (Mataro), Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio, Shiraz (has two versions in Chinese), Verdelho and Verdeilho, even The Beatles has a couple of well-known options.
  • Research and recreation – what do the reviewers mean by “runaway train” and “goes like a ferrari”? Well we couldn’t ask them, so had to use common sense and creative genius to coin something equally inspiring in the Chinese!
  • Self learning – unpick any historical, political and context specific content to help our team, such as quotes from correspondence or articles written over the last 170 years, e.g. a “promise amply to repay his spirited outlay”; “elaborate hocus pocus of certain self-appointed knights of the wine table”; “pandering to the snobs” … up to “cynical tweeters”.
  • Understanding the wine making process – from viticulture and terroir to headed down boards and battonage.
  • Studying history – Australian in particular – a trip down memory lane for those who remember: the year Azaria Chamberlain disappeared at Ayers Rock; the controversial winged keel; the decade of the ’90s which had more hits than the Beatles, The Stolen Generations; Mother Mary McKillop’s beatification – the book reflects on what was happening in Australia and the world through the prism of wines.
  • Once the draft was done – reviews of translation (two different checks done)
  • Typeset to the English artwork with two further checks of the layout
  • Incorporating various rounds of changes (all of the steps were occurring in unison up to this point)
  • Proofread in entirety
  • Check and tweak printer proofs
  • Project finalisation.

Congratulations to Penfolds for the vision to produce this seminal work which acknowledges the importance of the China audience. That audience will now realise the value and unique qualities of the Penfolds range and see it in an historical perspective; they will also understand Australia’s evolution through the development of wines perhaps casting a mirror at China’s own evolving wine drinking society.

And to our team, well done on such a thorough approach and a beautiful result! Looking forward to more grand projects in the future!


Got a question? We’d love to hear from you


Level 4, 221 Queen Street, Melbourne 3000
GPO Box 2231, Melbourne 3001

P. 1300 792 446
F. 03 9670 0766

"*" indicates required fields