How do you translate “cordone speronato”? (and other challenging Italian wine terms)

british libraryAbove: if I were a rich man, I’d spend my days in the reference/reading room of the British Library in London, one of my favorite places on earth (image via Wiki Commons).

Last week, a client of mine asked me to prepare a shortlist of “challenging” Italian wine terms in translation.

I was unavailable for a consecutive interpreting gig for one of said client’s high-profile clients and so they ended up contracting an interpreter who, however accomplished, didn’t have a lot of experience in wine-trade interpreting.

The following list of terms and translations by no means represents a complete bilingual glossary.

Instead, it’s populated by “challenging” words that are often mistranslated.

Like the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project and the Italian Winery Designations Project, I’ll continue to update it: please send me your queries (by leaving a comment)!



acciaio [inossidabile] stainless-steel [vat/tank]
affinamento aging
alberello head-trained [vines]
allevamento training
argilla clay
arresto di fermentazione/fementazione arrestata stuck fermentation
assemblaggio blend
barrique barrique [small French oak cask]
bâtonnage stirring on the lees
biodinamica biodynamics/biodynamic
biologico organic
botte traditional large cask
bucce skins
Cabernet [Sauvignon] Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc Cabernet Franc
calcareo limestone [limestone-rich]
cappello sommerso submerged cap maceration
cordone speronato pruned-spur cordon-trained [vines]
cru vineyard designation/single vineyard
cuvée blend
délestage rack and return
deraspare/deraspatrice de-stemm/de-stemmer
DOC DOC [designation of controlled origin]
DOCG DOCG [designation of controlled and guaranteed origin]
DOP PDO [Protected Designation of Origin]
doppio capovolto double-arched cane [training]
fementazione arrestata/arresto di fermentazione stuck fermentation
follatura punching down
galestro galestro [a marl- and limestone-rich subsoil unique to Tuscany]
grappa grappa
grappolo cluster/bunch
Guyot Guyot
IGP PGI [Protected Geographical Indication]
IGT IGT [typical geographical indication]
lievito naturale native/ambient/indigenous/wild yeast
lievito selezionato cultured yeast
limo silt
macchia [mediterranea] maquis shrubland
malolactica malolactic fermentation
marna/marne marl
monovitigno single-grape variety [wine]
mosto must
pied de cuve pied de cuve [native yeast starter]
pigiatura pressing
rimontaggio pumping over
sabbia sandy soil
Sauvignon [Blanc] Sauvignon Blanc
siccità/stress idrico hydric stress
sistema di allevamento training
sottosuolo subsoil
stress idrico/siccità hydric stress
sulle bucce skin contact [macerated on the skins]
sulle fecce nobili lees aged [aged on its lees]
sur lie lees aged [aged on its lees]
terreno/terreni subsoil
tufo tufaceous subsoil [porous limestone]
vasca vat/tank
vigna/vigne vine/vineyards
vigneto vineyard
vinaccia/vinacce pomace
vite vine
vitigno grape variety

10 thoughts on “How do you translate “cordone speronato”? (and other challenging Italian wine terms)

  1. Dr. P – As always, an interesting and educational post. IMHO, a few others to consider: per cent (as in “is this 100 percent Sangiovese?”) vintage, winemaker (always handy to know); and importer (also handy when writing about wines).
    And, naturalmente – “Posso visitare la vostra azienda?”
    Grazie per tutti.

  2. In the early days, back in 1995, I used to use this book backwards (so to speak) : “Speaking of WIne Inglese per Professionisti del Vino” by Mia Farone Rosso, Patricia Guy & Josephine Taylor. It’s a great resource with agricultural, vinification and commercial terms… but I have a feeling I will be coming back to this post! Grazie J.

  3. David and Laura, thanks for being here and for the insights and suggestions. It will be an expanding and continuing project and I hope more people will contribute. :)

    Laura, my Anglophilia only grows richer at the thought of a visit to the Bodleian Library! So many wonderful incunabula!

    Whistle the tune: if I were a rich man… deedle deedle… ;)

  4. Jeremy-
    Nice list. I think delestage is actually more about oxgenating the juice during fermentation but not necessary in a rack and return way. I think you left that out in your definition or at least it wasn’t clear to me. Otherwise, super utile sicuramente per quelli che non parlino italiano. Will point out the post to those who ask for shortcuts.

    PS Great shot of the macaroons in your other post, very cool.

    • Thanks for the note on _marc_, Alfonso. I have so many entries to add and update in the index. Thanks for giving me a nudge to get it back on track and thanks for the kind words of encouragement! :)

  5. Please add “Scheletro” in there. The most sensible translation I found is “Rock fragments”.
    Thank you for your work.

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