can you correctlly say Bordeauxs, Burgandies

Hi,

I wonder if you could let me have your feelings about these situations.

1. When we are referring to wine - can we correctly lower case the word - champagne, bordeaux, burgundy or should it always be upper case even when we are talking generally. For example, a champagne, a bordeaux, a burgundy

2. If we are referring to more than one - can we say champagnes, bordeauxs, burgundies

Grateful for your thoughts. Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards,
Susan
Original Post
1. These questions are very confusing, Susan. Are you asking about capitalization, or are you asking about the use of the indefinite article? Yikes! Wink

Well, the answers are that we don't normally capitalize champagne, but I've found it's quite common to capitalize Burgundy and Bordeaux. Maybe that's because they're not as commonly used when describing types of wine, while champagne is always used commonly for this kind of sparkling wine.

And, by the way, it's fine to use the indefinite article with those words and two pluralize them since you would then be discussing a category of wine rather than an amount (a burgundy from this part of France rather than that area of France; the champagnes found in this store).
This may sound weird, Susan, but it seems that while it's not odd to say a champagne, a Burgundy, or a Bordeaux, it does seem very odd to put Burgundy and Bordeaux in the plural.

I suppose it's possible, but not likely. And, by the way, that x at the end of Bordeaux is technically a plural marker in French, so the word won't change in the singular or plural form when used in English.

For all intents and purposes, it's probably just a lot easier to say kinds or types of champagne, Burgundy, or Bordeaux.

Now you've made me very thirsty! Wink
Food for thought:

Is it not true that in a proper noun ends in a 'y, only S is added to make the plural? Not the usual -ies?

The plural of 'Kennedy' is 'Kennedys." The plural of 'Duffy' is 'Duffy.' Thus, if Burgundy is capitalized, wouldn't its plural be 'Burgundys'?

This spelling is always odd to me. So Richard's suggestion covers avoids this oddity, too.

"Well, the answers are that we don't normally capitalize champagne, but I've found it's quite common to capitalize Burgundy and Bordeaux. Maybe that's because they're not as commonly used when describing types of wine, while champagne is always used commonly for this kind of sparkling wine."

Champagne refers to the sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France.  Anyone else calling their sparkling wine Champagne technically is wrong but many people still do it (i.e. 'California Champagne' akin to the 'Hearty Burgundy' of yore from Gallo; it should be called 'Hearty Pinot Noir' as Burgundy refers to a protected region in France but, hey-- marketing).  There are many protected agricultural areas in the beverage world (from Napa Valley to Scotch to Bourbon, etc.) but getting everyone on the same page can take time.

Welcome to the Grammar Exchange, tmsmfa.  I'm curious as to why you chose to post a reply on this thread that had been forgotten for nine years, and whose participants are no longer with the Grammar Exchange.  (Richard officially left in January of 2010, Susan last signed on in September of that year, and Rachel passed away in May of 2014.)

You wrote:

Champagne refers to the sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France.  Anyone else calling their sparkling wine Champagne technically is wrong

I can't completely agree with this statement.  It's like saying anyone calling a city dweller a pagan is technically wrong.  Word meanings change, and all of the dictionaries I've seen embrace a broader definition of "Champagne" that includes sparkling white wines similar to those of the Champagne region.  That being said, the European Union and about seventy countries outside the Union have laws restricting the commercial use of the name to its original meaning.  In the United States, domestic sparkling wines may be labelled as Champagne if they were so labelled before 2006, as long as the actual place of origin is specified (eg, "California Champagne").

Contrary to some of the earlier comments made on this thread, most dictionaries and other reference works that I've seen capitalize "Champagne" when referring to the wine.  Curiously, Merriam-Webster does not, but they do capitalize "Burgundy" and "Bordeaux".  As noted, "Bordeaux" is both singular and plural, but when pronounced, the "x" is silent in the singular and pronounced as a /z/ in the plural.  The plural of "Burgundy" is "Burgundies"; the rule about only adding an "s" to proper nouns ending in "y" only applies to peoples names.  Hence, from 1949 to 1990, when East and West Germany were separate counties, they were collectively "the Germanies".

DocV

Hi DocV, I work in the wine industry so tend to try and follow the geographical designations that the various countries use (such as the Champagne AOC in France). Most sparkling wine producers (in the US) have moved away from using the word 'Champagne' in their nomenclature but still use the French descriptors (Brut, Sec, etc.). We Americans have American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) to protect our unique wine regions (Napa Valley, Wilamette Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, etc.). Cheers, tmsmfa

Tmsmfa,

First of all, how do you pronounce that?

Mainly, though, I want to thank you for sharing your background information.  I appreciate that your knowledge of wine industry terminology is superior to mine, and hope I haven't made too big a fool of myself.

As you said, "[m]ost sparkling wine producers (in the US) have moved away from using the word 'Champagne' in their nomenclature".  As I indicated, this trend has been supported, in fact goaded, by legislation.  And, of course, US winemakers are further motivated to conform to international protocol by self-interest, namely, their desire to have the AVAs recognized and respected by the worldwide community.

Nevertheless, the broader definition of "Champagne" has been embraced by the public at large, and this is reflected in our dictionaries.  Similarly, the medical community has a strict definition of "paranoid", and the general public has another.  Most of us will use "paranoid" to mean "having excessive distrust or suspicion toward others", and our dictionaries support this usage.  But mental health professionals tend to bristle at the use of the word to refer to anyone but a person who is afflicted by a specific type of psychosis.  They can become positively irate when a layman calls someone "paranoid" who has not been so diagnosed by a medical doctor.  It's like they think we're out to get them.  Frankly, these people need help.

But I digress.  My point is that it is natural for a wine industry professional like yourself to advocate the more narrow usage of terms like "Champagne".  But to call the broader definition incorrect is to deny the evolution of the language.

Similar things happen with brand names.  "Aspirin" and "Heroin" used to be trademarks of the Bayer Corporation, but have long since fallen into generic use.

I believe it was less than a year ago that I found out that "Realtor" is a registered trademark and, as such, must always be capitalized and can only legally be used to refer to someone who is a member of the National Association of Real Estate Boards.

Perhaps it should be a requirement that Champagnes that are not from Champagne be spelled with a lower-case "c".

DocV

Just initials, so no pronunciation needed (perhaps I'm a bit 'paranoid' about being tracked online). I hope (and not out of ego or anything) that we can steer the general public toward the usage of 'sparkling wine' for the generic term, Champagne for the sparkling wines from Champagne, France, Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, etc. I really enjoy the idea of the French term terroir-- it has to do with a wine having a 'sense of place' reflecting the soil, climate and region where it comes from. To me, that's what the proper name in this instance reflects. While genericization is quite rampant (moreso in the USA, perhaps? I recall as a kid asking for a Coke and being queried in return as to what kind?) in a lot of industries and everyday usages, in this case I believe and hope in the long run the 'right' terminology will win out-- and maybe only because of the legislation and /or other legal manoeuvres that have taken place and the ones that most likely will be brought forth in times to come. In any case, good conversation! Thank you. T.

Interesting.  If I ordered a Coke and was asked "What kind?", I would assume that I was being asked to choose from among regular Coke, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, etc.

The Coca-Cola Company fought in the courts for decades to keep their competitors from using the word "cola" in their product names.  It wasn't until 1944 that the courts decided that Coca-Cola didn't own the word.  Then Coca-Cola sent a "secret shopper" into a drug store to order a Coke.  They served him a Pepsi, thus kicking off a whole new series of lawsuits.

Ah yes, le goût de terroir.  The taste of soil.  It sounds much better in French than in English.  But even the literal English translation sounds better than "the gout of terror".

DocV

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