Translating Wine in China

Translating Wine for China

Category: Culture, Translation Services

According to a recent article in The Guardian, the Chinese bought a whopping 1.86 billion bottles of red wine in 2013, representing an increase of 136% over the past five years. That’s well over one bottle per person in the world’s most populous nation.

This growing thirst for red wine comes as no surprise to wine industry professionals who keep close tabs on global drinking trends. The Chinese have been enamored with foreign wines for the last decade and their hunger for western fare, such as pizza and coffee, has been well demonstrated.

But while it’s tempting to attribute this spike in red wine sales to an increasingly western palate, some experts have an additional explanation as to why red wine in particular is favoredin China. Red is China’s favorite color. To the Chinese, the color red, ”红” (pronounced hóng), symbolizes goodfortune, power and wealth.

In Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, red wine is considered not only a sophisticated, food-friendly and healthy beverage — but also a lucky one. The Chinese serve red wine to toast a new business deal or seal a partnership. Once reserved for the wealthiest businessmen and elite class of government officials, red wine is now the preferred beverage of the burgeoning middle class who are known for investing in first growth Bordeaux and the finest red Burgundies. Analysts predict that the upward trend in red wine consumption will continue throughout the 2010s as wine is increasingly integrated into the new generation’s culinary culture.

Cultural considerations are important to take into account if you’re looking to export your wines to China. Beyond the symbolism of colors, numbers can have a profound impact on business deals. For example, tetraphobia, the practice of avoiding instances of the number four, is common in China as “4” is associated with death. The Chinese tend to avoid using fours in phone numbers, addresses and prices and buildings often lack a fourth floor.

Given these beliefs around color and number, there are some easy tricks you can use to retouch your wine marketing and make it more friendly and culturally-sensitive to the Chinese market. For example, if your Chardonnay label reads:

“A crisp and refreshing white wine from a small, four-acre plot in the Santa Cruz Mountains.” 

You can greatly improve the impact of this wine blurb by simply removing the mention of four:

 “A crisp and refreshing wine with golden tones, from a small plot in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

Finessing the wording on your wine labels, eCommerce website and marketing collateral to accommodate cultural preferences is a simple way to enter the Chinese market with your best foot forward.

Are you interested in learning more about wine translation and how to adapt your branding to the Chinese market? Do you need some tips on how to approach Chinese translation and select the right Chinese dialects to achieve your business objectives?

Through our experience partnering with brands such as Opus One, Diageo and Jackson Family Wines, we’ve developed expertise in wine translation for China. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your brand meet with good fortune in the world’s top red wine drinking nation.