Monday, 21 April 2008

The Fête de Printemps de la Jurade, Saint Emilion

Nick and I had stayed at Chateau Senailhac so that we could attend the Induction Ceremony held by the Jurade in Saint Emilion. The atmosphere was amazing. The Jurade dates back to the 12th Century and the Medieval surroundings of the Monolithic Church in which it was held took you back in time. Part of the church is an underground cathedral and the other is the spire which reaches up and out of the rock and into the heavens.

The whole occasion had an ancient almost regal feel to it which gave you the eerie feeling of taking part in a pageant that had been performed unchangingly down the centuries. The lady attendants all wore chique red dresses to match the red robes of the Jurat, adorned by a single string of pearls. There was no dusty pomp and circumstance just a stately gathering of people from all walks of life who cared passionately about their wine and their city which they are sworn to protect.

The Reception was held in the gardens and we had Champagne and Canapes. The Canapes were served on spoons – which had a wide bowl with a small twist to make a handle. I have never seen these sort of spoons before and they were an ingenious way to serve the scrumptious snacks. After the Ceremony we sat down to eat the most delicious meal. The menu was:

Cannelloni de langoustine (Crawfish Cannelloni)
Croustillant de thon mariné au gingembre (Crusty Tuna with Ginger)
Homard au navet (Lobster with turnips)
Vichyssoise de petitis pois à l’églefin (Vichyssoise of Peas and Haddock)
Et râpé de truffes noires (Grated Black Truffles)
Poire moelleuse de joue de bœuf liée au vin de Saint-Émilion (Cheek of Beef in wine with pears)
Petit pot d’antan aux légumes de printemps (Casserole of Spring Vegetables)
Fromages
Craquelin au chocolat
Sorbet au basilic et huile d’olive (Basil and Olive Sorbet)
Café
Macaron à la rose (Rose Water Macaroons)
Plaisirs autour du chocolat
Crumble poire au thym (Pear and Thyme Crumble)

Nick’s favourite was the Macaron à la rose – which I am going to have to try and recreate as they were delicious! Saint Emilion is famous for its Macaroons, the recipe for which was brought to the town by Ursuline nuns in 1620.

The tables were glistening with ranks of glasses ready to sample the wines. I was surprised to see that everyone was nearly as passionate about the glasses as they were about the wine. Each glass had to be the right shape and have exactly the right dimensions with which you could fully enjoy the variety of wine for which it was made.

In fact, whilst shopping earlier in the week, Nick and I had watched a lady buying a set of wine glasses in the town. The shopkeeper examined each glass meticulously before he boxed it up to make the set. Each glass was struck with his finger to see if it rang true and also to see if it matched the tone of the others he had selected. Any glass that rang out of tune was rejected immediately. It was fascinating to watch.

The entertainment provided for us whilst we dined was spectacular – a dancer was suspended from the vaulted ceiling and gracefully twirled above our heads. She too was dressed in the red of the Jurade. It was quite ethereal to watch and added to the spell binding aura of the ancient surroundings.

It was an event that we shall never forget and an honour to be part of Saint Emilion’s heritage. The nearest equivalent I can think of in the UK is the old tradition of the guilds which were formed to protect the time honoured crafts and traditions of the artisans hundreds of years ago. I am so proud that Nick’s work with wine – his one great passion – has enabled him to become part of such an honourable fellowship that holds this great love close to their hearts as well.

Images Courtesy of www.flickr.com

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