Friday, September 27, 2013

St. Emilion's Jurade

A Jurat's uniform is a red robe with a white, pleated jabot, white cuffs
and a red toque.  

On Sept. 15, I stepped into the magical world of the Jurade in the medieval village of St. Emilion in Bordeaux. It was approaching harvest time, so it was the perfect time to visit the world’s most renowned wine region.

St. Emilion’s Jurade is today an official brotherhood of wine lovers, investors and producers, all admitted to promote the Merlot-based wines of the right bank’s picturesque village. It used to be the local government and stretches back to 1199. Twice a year, at harvest time and in the spring, its members hold a formal ceremony -- complete with flowing red robes, banners and a procession through town -- to induct new members. In the fall ceremony, the Bans des Vendanges, or harvest proclamation, the new harvest is officially declared by releasing clusters of black balloons, resembling grape bunches, into the air.

This year, a record group of 21 Asian wine lovers and investors were inducted into St. Emilion's Jurade to take on the role of ambassadors to the rest of the world for the village's wines. Five of them, from Singapore, China and Hong Kong, were inducted Sept. 15 paralleling recent increased investment in St. Emilion in the past few years.

  Amid pomp and pageantry, and against the backdrop of the fairytale village and a gorgeous blue sky, the new members were welcomed into the exclusive group during a day-long event that included a 90-minute mass, an induction ceremony in the Monolithic church and a formal luncheon lasting several hours. For someone from the California suburbs, it was like falling asleep and waking up in another, more charming, era.

The actual 2013 harvest was about two weeks late this year, due to cool weather in the growing season and hail in August, but has just gotten underway.