The NY Times tried to get a little too sophisticated in the headline of today’s story by Elaine Sciolino about a government-sponsored attempt to promote doggie bags for unfinished wine in French restaurants. The headline reads “Garçon! The Check, Please, and Wrap Up the Bordelais!” I don’t know if the headline writer thought “bordelais” was a classy synonym for “bordeaux” (if so, “claret” would have been a better choice), but as far as I can tell, its only use in English (in French it’s an adjective meaning ‘of or pertaining to the city of Bordeaux or the adjacent region) is as the name for a breed of cattle. If that’s what the writer was thinking of, it would require quite a bag.


  1. Somehow I thought it was also the name of a sauce. I will check in Larousse and get back to you.

  2. perhaps she was thinking of beaujolais? but of course, that’s burgundy. americans + wine = ehh. but in the times, terrible.

  3. According to Le Petit Robert:
    1. From Bordeaux or its region
    2. Bordelaise, a red wine sauce
    3. A large vat containing around 225 Litres used in the commerce of Bordeaux wines (1866)
    4. A bottle of a particular shape, containing about 75 centilitres (1877)

  4. They changed it. The headline is now “Garçon! The Check, Please, and Wrap Up the Wine!”

  5. Ha! But will they print a correction?
    Jeremy: That’s bordelaise sauce (with an -e).
    anders: I’m aware of its use for a kind of bottle (and vat), but that’s in French, not English (as far as I’m aware), and besides it’s clearly not what the headline writer had in mind.

  6. I can’t resist this. I was just checking to see whether the next word in the dictionary after Bordelaise was bordello (it is) when I noticed the one preceding Bordeaux which is borborygmus – rumbling of the stomach. A new one on me.
    Presumably what happens if you consume your Bordelais in too much of a hurry.

  7. Actually I’m not sure that the “wrap up my bordelais” is that wrong. It’s more common to refer to the wine by the “appelation”; bordelais is the region where bordeaux vines grow and just means “from bordeaux”.
    So, “wrap up my wine from bordeaux” is not an enophile’s favourite phrase but it’s not a disgrace 🙂
    Notice that Beaujolais is simultaneously a “appellation” and a region.

  8. All I can say is that I’ve been drinking (and learning about) French wine for over a dozen years now (following a trip to Paris when I was served a cru beaujolais with my duck and learned that wine could make a real difference) and I’ve never seen or heard bordelais used in this sense. (And the fact that the Times changed the headline certainly indicates that they think it’s wrong.)

  9. –which reminds me: what’s the English plural of “faux pas”??

  10. Spelled the same, pronounced “foe PAHZ.”

  11. OK, fine, then, what’s the plural of “alma mater”?

  12. I immediately imagined my friend Jean-Cristophe from Bordeaux being wrapped up in tissue paper. I am unsure as to what his feelings on this matter would be.

  13. “Cristophe”? Saints preserve me, it’s like I’m begging for a traffic accident. Even if that saint was superannuated, which I think was a bad idea.
    Also forgot to add that y faut pas trop s’emballer, surtout dans un endroit cool. C’est comme pêter dans l’ascenseur.

  14. eleanor rowe says

    Speaking from a British wine trade perspective, I’ve only ever heard it used to mean ‘the people of Bordeaux’

  15. I just hope you don’t trade in British wine…

  16. eleanor rowe says

    Um. Curious Grape Pinot Noir from a vineyard in Tenterden, Kent. Similar geology to Burgundy, currently doing nicely in a selection of west end restaurants…..
    No, really.

  17. Thomas Dent says

    Alma mater -> Almae matres … in theory, I think.
    If you’re that concerned about unfinished bottles – waste of good wine being a terrible thing – I would suggest bringing along a cork so that you can take away the bottle. Mostly the waiter will take away the cork, so you need to plan ahead a little.
    Of course, the wine won’t actually be wasted if you don’t finish it, it’ll probably end up in the stomachs of the staff or in tomorrow’s coq au vin.
    People tend to regard taking away excess bread, bottled water, etc. as a little eccentric, but if you’ve paid for it why not?
    My anxiety over waste is such that I’ve even commandeered a two-thirds full glass from a neighboring table.

  18. When I lived in France (bon, je sais, Ça fait longtemps)nobody even dreamed of taking leftover food home. Maybe things have changed there, but the idea of a doggy bag coming out of a good French restaurant, Ça se fait pas de tout.

  19. “….OK, fine, then, what’s the plural of “alma mater”?”
    ‘Dozen matter’?

  20. Toby: That point is made in the article, which ends:
    Finally, the concept of pocketing leftovers has not caught on in France. A sampling of the clientele at Chez Paul at lunchtime last Friday indicated little enthusiasm for the idea of a “sac de chien.”
    Asked whether he would ever take an unfinished bottle of wine home in a doggie bag, Yvan Assioma, 36, a police union representative, replied, “Why? I don’t have a dog! People with the leftovers of their bottle — this is truly provincial.”
    Laurence Martin, his lunch companion and a police officer in the suburbs of Paris, agreed. “We’re not campers,” she said.

  21. dungbeatle says

    Doggy bag – si gauche; si nouveau riche; eh wot me old china!

  22. jean-pierre says

    My old dad taught me not to waste. But then he is part Jew, part Scots, and was a child in the Depression. I have no shame in taking home leftovers, normally. I suppose that depends on the restaurant, the company I’m keeping, and if I care who are at the neighboring tables.
    As to not driving and drinking, I’m in agreement with the French government’s position now. Then again, consider it another plus for mass transit. (As long as you don’t fall asleep on the train and get your pocket or purse picked).

  23. I agree, both about taking stuff home and about not drinking and driving. (And I have fallen asleep on the subway and gotten my pocket picked, or rather slashed, but I was poor and had hardly anything in my wallet, so I considered it a cheap lesson.)

  24. scarabaeus stercus says

    ” Waste not want not”. One does not go to a New York Parisian gastronomic epicuric Restaurant to save.Oh! La! La!
    Merci! ” Mon Dieu” “… “We’re not campers,” she said….”
    I trust they sniffed the cork in the approved manner followed by gentle unbruising swirl then enjoyed the “bookay” [ via the the nasal passages] then
    with that gentle sip that told the wine waiter that he had stored the the bottle at the correct temperature and the spiders were duly removed.
    C’est la Vie.

  25. i can’t believe nobody questioned the horrid and ridiculous term “sac de chien” which i’d argue simply doesn’t exist. there’s “sac à chien” here and there which is used for a backpack or purse in which to carry a dog… but for doggie bag? well, it’s emporte-restes ou bien, sac à restes. it’s too funny and a brilliant coincidence: i had an entry in my blog regarding the article from earlier this morning. a friend alerted me to your previous one here… what a brilliant site! it’s 01:42 and i can’t get away! congratulations!

  26. I thought maybe «sac à chien» might be more like it, («sac de chien» is clearly a hopeless joke), but then realised I didn’t know the local term for thees theeng. Because I’ve never heard anyone ask for one. Never even heard of anyone asking for one in France before today.
    For which, I suppose, kudos!

  27. Er, that last sentence should read “Never even heard of anyone …

  28. Usual caveats about holes and digging apply.

  29. Breaking news, slightly belated:
    Consommation. Des restos en mal de buveurs tentent le «doggy bag» à vin.
    This will expire into pay-archives shortly, hélas.

  30. Thanks! So that posterity will not be unduly deprived, here’s the meat of the story:

    Entre 500 et 600 établissements ­ sur 10 000 en France ­ ont suivi l’opération «sac à vin», dont une vingtaine à Paris. Mais, mais… il faudra encore du temps avant que l’idée ne s’impose. Chez Daniel Karrenbauer, qui vend entre 300 et 400 bouteilles par semaine, une vingtaine seulement ont été emportées depuis novembre. Et en majorité par des touristes. Seulement trois Français ont été séduits par le concept. Pas évident de se trimballer avec sa bouteille. «A midi, ce n’est pas la peine, c’est trop compliqué à emporter au boulot. Le soir, ceux qui vont boire un verre dans un café ou continuent la nuit en boîte sont aussi embêtés. Et puis les Français ont une petite réaction du genre “on n’est pas des petits joueurs, on va la finir !”», analyse le patron de Chez Paul. Certains touristes, en revanche, aiment déguster les deux derniers verres à l’hôtel, voire, s’ils ont vraiment apprécié un vin, acheter une deuxième bouteille.

  31. Just checked the Times story and found this appended to it (to my infinite satisfaction):

    Correction: January 27, 2004, Tuesday A headline yesterday about restaurants in France that are encouraging customers to take home their leftover wine, to combat unsafe driving, referred incorrectly to the wine of the region where the project began. It is Bordeaux. (Bordelais is the term for the region or for its people.)

  32. “Charles James Fox, it is said, called the red wine of France Bordox to the end of his days. He was an American at heart […].” —H.L. Mencken

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