The key events in the life of the Saint-Émilion Jurade are called Chapters. The Spring Festival (third Sunday in June) and Harvest Proclamation (opening of the grape harvest, third Sunday in September) are the two great Chapters of the year. It is on these occasions that induction ceremonies are arranged.
Exceptional Chapters may also give rise to extraordinary events, such as the creation of a Chancellerie in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017 and the induction of its Chancellor Gazelle Guirandou.
At these solemn occasions, the people who are about to be inducted are presented to the Jurade in historically-charged places like the moat of the Cardinal Palace (12th century) or the monolithic church which was dug out of the rock at the beginning of the 12th century.
The traditional hospitality of the winegrowers is respected and at each celebration the Jurats, winegrowers and new dignitaries take part in a prestigious banquet. Great chefs offer a sublime association of fine food and Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint-Émilion and Puisseguin Saint-Émilion wines.
1948. The winegrowers of Saint-Émilion revived the Jurade.
This was followed by a procession through the medieval city which became a key event in the history of the Jurade and of Saint-Émilion. Since then the Jurade de Saint-Émilion has paraded twice a year, for the Spring Festival and the Harvest Proclamation.
The parade is a momentous occasion which also respects a strict ceremonial protocol. The Marguillier (Master of Ceremonies) leads the way, followed by the Standard Bearer and the Grand Vintner, the keeper of the Jurade’s brand. Then come the Chancellors, the Ladies of the Jurade, the Jurats and the First Jurat and then the guests of honour. Finally the Honorary First Jurats and their Deputies join the procession, followed by the new Jurats and inductees wearing their capes. By walking in their predecessors’ footsteps, the Jurats proclaim their attachment to the historic vineyards of Saint-Émilion.
THE SPRING FESTIVAL
The Jurats do not simply parade through the town. They induct new members. They conduct celebrations. The Judgement of the New Wine is one of the celebrations which punctuate the life of the Jurade. On the third Sunday in June, after the induction ceremonies and the traditional lunch, the Jurade proclaims the Judgement of the New Wine. This event takes place from the top of the King’s Tower. This 13th-century keep, an architectural monument which has become an emblem of Saint-Émilion, is today the high altar for all Jurade celebrations. It is from this tower that the Jurade proclaims the qualities of the new vintage.
THE HARVEST PROCLAMATION
On the third Sunday in September the harvest is proclaimed from the top of the King’s Tower. Historically, this proclamation (“Ban des Vendanges”) was the administrative authorisation to begin picking the grapes. The precise expression is “lifting the ban on grape harvesting”, in other words putting an end to the period during which grape-picking was forbidden. In Saint-Émilion the date of the grape harvest has never been freely decided by the winegrowers and is governed by a public decision which is taken in the general interest. In the early years this practice had the advantage of preventing damage to the vines and discouraging any unlawful forays into the vineyards.
The final goal was also the quest for quality. The essential task of the experts who were sent into the vineyards was to ensure that the grapes would be fully ripe when the grape harvest was proclaimed.
There are more than 3,000 inducted members of the Jurade, who are all ambassadors of Saint-Émilion wines throughout the world. They all share an attachment to the wines of Saint-Émilion and a profound respect for the work of the winegrowers in this area. Being inducted means becoming a full member of a wonderful, extended family which is eight hundred years old. It means playing your part in the promotion of the wine-producing appellations of Saint-Émilion.
Throughout the year, receptions and induction ceremonies are organized at which new members are admitted to the Jurade.
Royalty, clergymen, politicians, women and men of the world, of the arts, of film, television and theatre as well as major sporting figures and business people, wine professionals and wine connoisseurs: the people distinguished by the Jurade come from a variety of backgrounds.
Dressed in their bright red robes, the Jurats add a touch of emotion, along with a note of great solemnity, to the induction ceremony.
The ritual is well-established. It all begins with a presentation of the Jurade and of the wines of Lussac Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion and Saint-Émilion Grand Cru by the First Jurat.
He then calls up each prospective member and a commendation is read emphasizing their attachment to the wines of Saint-Émilion.
Honorary titles are bestowed on the distinguished personalities and then the Jurats take their oath and honour the new ambassadors. Finally, each inductee is given a diploma and an epitoga bearing the seal of the Jurade, marking the unbreakable bond which links him or her to Saint-Émilion.