This year marks the 800th anniversary of the Jurade, and St. Emilion will be celebrating it in style! There are two major events in the year that bring people from all corners of the world to this tiny wine village; the Fete de Fleurs in June and the Fete des Vendanges in September.
The Fete des Fleurs celebrates the flowering of the vines, which marks the official start to the growing season and the hope and promise of a fine harvest later in the year. The Fete des Vendanges of course celebrates the culmination of the year's growth and the official start of the harvest itself.
The Jurade was formed as the governing body of the mediaeval city of St. Emilion back in the 12th Century. John Lackland, king of England (and brother of Richard the Lionheart) who controlled the Aquitaine region of France, gave St. Emilion the right to self-government on June 8, 1199. Wine being a major concern of this monastic city, the Jurade controlled the production and consumption of wine as it controlled everything else. The Jurade gradually lost it's power as the Church and the Monasteries were stripped of their influence, and finally died out altogether with the French Revolution. It was not reinstated until 1948, but this time not to govern the whole town, being now involved only in the wine trade.
Actually the Jurade is now principally a promotional body for the winemakers rather than a controlling body - this is done by the quasi-government INAOC (Institute National d'Appellation Controllée). As with the Confèrie des Tastevins in Burgundy and the Commanderie de Bontemps of Bordeaux, the Jurade is mainly concerned with supporting the image of St. Emilion's wines throughout the world.
There are many reasons to visit St. Emilion this year, from the gala evening on June 12 through the Bans des Vendanges on September 19 - but of course the main reason, the wine, is always there!
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