Saint Emilion wine festivities

  • Open Doors Weekend
  • Spring Festival
  • Summer Celebration
  • Autumn Harvest

st emilion logoI have previously been a little cynical about the tendancy of the French to imbue elements of their gastronomic heritage with just a tad too much pomp and often doubtful history and ceremonials. If they had such things, I am sure there would be the equivalent of “The Worshipful Company of the Most Glorious and Authentic Pickled Onion or Shallot”, (oignons conservés au vinaigre?) enriched by elaborate costumes and rituals – and a history dating back to 1992! Having said that I admire their pride in their local produce and agree that it should be celebrated.

However, one august body to which my fond cynicism should not apply is the Jurade de Saint Emilion (33 Gironde, Nouvelle Aquitaine) who do have elaborate red robes, a spectacular procession through the town and a banquet which does justice to the fine wines of Saint Emilion. Every autumn they celebrate their “Ban des Vendanges” to mark the official start of the grape harvest, and many years ago I was lucky enough to accompany members of the Jurade on an extensive itinerary of tastings, a series of lavish meals with grand cru wines and the grand banquet. Although we were often only tasting young wines at the chateaux, some wonderful and mature vintages were brought out for the banquet.

Saint Emilion Open Doors weekend 4 – 5 May 2019 (78 Chateaux)

Jurade de St Emilion’s events:


Spring Festival –  20 – 21 June 2020  Fête de printemps de la Jurade de Saint-Emilion (3rd Sunday in June)


for the Celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of St Emilion’s UNESCO Listing as a world heritage site.

Ban des Vendanges (announcement of the Harvest) 19 – 20  September 20 20(3rd Sunday in September)

Whilst in Saint Emilion visit the Maison du Vin de Saint Emilion (St Emilion house of wine) and shop –  throughout the year, the Maison du Vin of Saint-Emilion helps visitors to discover the wine, sells  them at producer’s prices and will teach you how to taste them – located in Place Pierre Meyrat – see

As Timothy Hartley kindly informs me, the Jurade de St Emilion (the “guild”)has a rich and important history in the development of the wines of St Emilion – see below

Le Relais De Franc Mayne, Saint Emilion
Le Relais De Franc Mayne, Saint Emilion

For more info on Saint Emilion see For more about the wine village of St Emilion see OR stay on a vineyard in St Emilion

hotels in St Emilion or stay in a hotel in the middle of a vineyard just 1km outside the village – Le Relais De Franc Mayne

By Train TGVTGV to Bordeaux with Rail Europe


The roots of the Jurade lie deep in both French and English history – as its Arms, Great Seal and banners, which bear both the Lilies of France and the Lions of England, show. Saint-Émilion, together with the rest of Aquitaine, formed part of the dowry of Eleanor of Aquitaine on her marriage to King Henry II. The Jurade goes back at least as far as 1199, when their son, King John, confirmed privileges apparently earlier granted by Richard, Coeur de Lion. Saint-Émilion became effectively a free City under the Crown with the Jurade having control of its legal and economic affairs. The Jurats’ duties included the control of production, and sale of, wine, closely monitoring its quality, branding approved casks and destroying any which were unworthy. Under Edward I, in 1289, the area of the Jurisdiction was enlarged to cover what is still the wine growing area composing the appellations of Saint Émilion. In return for these privileges, the Crown required that regular, and very large consignments, of wine be tasted, judged, its good quality assured, and then be consigned to England in casks quality assured by the Jurade’s seal. After Saint-Émilion reverted to the French Crown, the Jurade’s rights and duties were confirmed by French Royal Charters but, in the French Revolution, Jurats lost both their heads and their privileges.

The Jurade no longer has its extensive former civic and legal powers but its Grand Council still sits once a year, in Spring, to conduct a blind tasting of the wines of Saint-Émilion to assess their merits and pronounce a Jugement du Vin Nouveau. In September, it authorises the start of picking, in a ceremonial Ban des Vendanges from the top of the Tour du Roi, the Jurats wearing the scarlet and white robe of their mediaeval predecessors and calling upon their spirits to witness the continuation of over 800 years of tradition, passion, experience and skill.

cheval blanc labelThe Jurade honours its historic links by giving us the privilege of two Chancelleries, based in the two ancient leading cities of England, York, serving the north of England and Scotland, and London, for the south of England and Wales. They organise tastings for those who would like to know more about the Jurisdiction’s wines, often in combination with charitable fund raising. They also arrange visits to Saint-Emilion for members of the Association de la Jurade in England for the important festivals in Saint-Emilion’s calendar, the Fête de Printemps and the Ban des Vendanges. More information about their activities, and contact details, are on their website – They are always happy to welcome new members and to introduce them to Saint-Émilion’s renowned hospitality, its beauty and its enormous range of wines.

St Emilion produces some of the best Bordeaux red wines, wines which in the Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes dominate. The town and vineyards of St Emilion (33, Gironde, Aquitaine) are to my mind the most interesting to visit, the town being on an outcrop and the vineyards stretching down to the Dordogne river. The Spring celebration “Fete de Printemps” takes place on the 3rd Sunday in June most years , whilst the harvest celebration “Ban des Vendanges” takes place on the 3rd Sunday in September.

unescoSaint Emilion is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site: “The Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion is an outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day. The intensive cultivation of grapes for wine production in a precisely defined region and the resulting landscape is illustrated in an exceptional way by the historic Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion.

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