I was asked out of the blue if I would like to be ‘intronised’ by the Connetablie de Guyenne de Cotes de Bourg for my work in promoting the region’s wines. Being ‘enthroned’ by an ancient wine guild – sounded too interesting an opportunity to miss out on. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I agreed.
The timing of such an honour was eerie. It was only a few weeks before that we had, after much contemplation for a thoroughly English family, put a stake in the ground and bought ourselves a house in Bordeaux, givng up our small appartment, which had been our ‘temporary’ abode for our ‘year out’ – which turned into four!
For someone who arrived in Bordeaux 22 years ago from England in a 2CV (arriving in mid-August on the deserted Quai de Bacalan as jeune stagiaire for Maison Sichel), I have, ever since had a heartfelt bond to this region. Returning over the years whenever possible, but always having something to pull me back to the UK (which at the time seemed important). Finally, two decades later, I have a permanent base with my family in the city I love.
I recall once seeing the Jurade of Saint Emilion, a procession of many senior greyed-hair men walking through the streets of St Emilion; it involved robes and medals and being male. As a youngish English woman I could not see how I would fit into such a picture. I was given no other insight to reassure me, just told to turn up at 4.30pm at the Maison du Vin de Blaye after the International Wine Competition and Judging (see separate blog). I knew I was to be part of an ancient ritual and that I would have to sit back and enjoy the scenes as they unravelled.
Itinerary of the Intronisation 12th April 16.30 Maison du Vin de Blaye: We stood by as a throng of existing members of the various confreries present dressed into their different coloured robes, hats and medallions and carrying banners which celebrated different wine regions of Bordeaux (and elsewhere including Beaujolais) and other disparate products too such as Tete de Veau and Frotter de l’ail (garlic rubbers!) and Jambon de Bayonne.
The procession made quite a picture, the different colours and styles of robes and hats through the streets of Blaye to take mass at the Church Saint Romain. The church service and singing in French in the vast nave of the Church Saint Romain was calming after the activity of being part of a 900 person judging panel earlier in the day. After the service (including participating in Communion – but with no local wine to be supped – that would come later!) there was a procession through the streets of Blaye and up through the Porte de Dauphin of Vauban’s Citadelle to the Salles des Minimes (and the newly restored cloisters) where the ‘intronisation’ would take place.
Eleven of us were ‘intronised’ into the Connetablie de Bourg and Blaye which involved being enrobed in the sumptuous velvet cloaks of the ancient guilds and listening to an account of our life by one of the existing members (in my case a laborious recount of what was on my CV), presentation of an elaborate heavy gold medal, downing a large glass of Bourg (which we had to finish), being knighted with a sword and being told how we now had the privilege of being able to visit any property day or night and our medal would gain us access – must put that to the test!) and agreeing to honour the wines of Bourg with a rowdy ‘Je le promets’.
I have promised to honour the wines of Bourg and am proud to be linked with this appellation whose wines can represent the best of Bordeaux – a freshness and purity of fruit that makes you want to reach for another glass or two!
Myself and Bernard Doneche, Head of the Faculty of Oenology at the Bordeaux University being ‘intronised’ into the Wine Guild of Bourg.
Continuing the English Connection
Like the Jurade de Saint Emilion the Connetablie de Bourg was created originally in the Middle Ages at the time when Aquitaine was an English territory through the marriage of Alienor d’Aquitaine with Henri II Plantegenet, King of England. Members are given certain privileges (which includes today upon presentation of one’s medallion access to any proprietor’s cellars to sample the wines any time of night or day!). Restablished in 1952 for promoting the wines of the region.
Bourg’s Connétablie de Guyenne, the seat of which was originally at the château of the Duc d’Epernon, is the third oldest wine guild to be created and its constables used to check the contents of barrels of wine with the “Velte”, a tool to calculate the volume of the contents. They would then nail a cypress branch to the mast as a receipt.
There are 18 confreries in Bordeaux including the Jurade de Saint Emilion, Commanderie de Bon Temps de Medoc et de Graves, Commanderie de Bon Temps de Sauternes-Barsac…..
Celebratory Dinner at the Citadelles de Blaye
Menu: Asperges du Blayais, Filet de Dorade, Carre d’Agneau au Thym
Best White Wines: 2007 Brulescaille Blanc, Blaye (bit too much oak for my taste), 2006 Chateau des Tourtes (100% Sauvignon – excellent)
Best Red Wines: 2003 Haut Bajac Bourg, 2002 Haut Launay Bourg
Chateau Puybarbe awarded special prize for Bourg wine