The Confrérie organization, its history and traditions

March 11, 2017

“Jamais en Vain, toujours en Vin”
“Never in vain, forever in wine”

The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin is an international wine fraternity, created in 1934 in France to promote burgundy wines and cuisine. The Confrérie is not simply just an eating and drinking society.  It has rules and traditions which make it very different from the various wine and food groups which have become popular in the last decades.  It is based on the Rabelaisian cult of wine, which found its expression in the Middle Ages.

At the time of its creation, the world was still recovering from the Great Depression of 1929. Thus, wine sales dropped significantly and cellars in Burgundy and elsewhere were filled to the brim with great burgundy wines. Two innovative Burgundians, Camille Rodier and Georges Faiveley took the matter into their own hands. They decided to invite their friends to visit Burgundy to enjoy and celebrate its wines. Their intention was to confirm that the great red and white wines of Burgundy were some of the finest wines in the world.

The first official event took place on November 16th, 1934 in the Caveau Nuiton cellar in Nuits-Saint-Georges, on the day before the world-famous wine sale of the Hospices de Beaune. This wine sale and charitable auction attracts wine buyers from around the world to bid on barrels of Burgundy wines. This event takes place every year on the third weekend of November from Saturday to Monday. On Saturday evening, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin holds a Chapitre, and on Sunday afternoon the wine auction takes place, which is followed on Monday afternoon by a “Paulée de Meursault”. These three events are called Les Trois Glorieuses.

La Saint-Vincent Tournante:

The patron saint of growers, Saint Vincent, is also the patron saint of most of the mutual Aid Societies created in the wine growing villages of Burgundy during the last century. Each one has a statue and a banner. Every year the “local Saint” is hosted by a different family who keep him under their roof until the following January. Thus the Saint “tourne” goes around each village from year to year, and from family to family. In 1938, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin thought up a “Saint-Vincent Tournante” (“revolving” Saint-Vincent). Every year, a different village welcomes all the winegrowers’ brotherhoods.

Le Tastevinage:

Tastevinage is a rigorous testing of wines from every corner of the Climates of Burgundy for the purpose of selecting those that come up to the standard of their appellation and vintage. Each wine is subjected to a blind tasting by a panel of 250 independent judges, each of whom are elite connoisseurs with discriminating palates. The wines that are judged worthy, are then awarded this official seal of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. This Tastevin seal allows the consumer to identify those wines which have been independently judged to be of the highest quality and worthy of this distinction.

Each year the Confrérie organizes two Tastevinage sessions at the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot. The first is in the spring for the red burgundies, and the second is in the autumn for the white burgundies and the Beaujolais crus, while the champagnes are represented at both sessions.

The Confrérie’s three principal objectives are:

  • To hold in high regard and encourage the use of the products of Burgundy, in particular her great wines and her regional cuisine
  • To revive and maintain the festivities, customs and traditions of Burgundian folklore
  • To encourage people all over the world to visit Burgundy.

Worldwide expansion:

Today, the Confrérie is a universal brotherhood with more than 12,000 men and women known as Chevaliers. There are 15 Commanderies (national groups) on all five continents, and 75 Sous-Commanderies (sub-branches, or Chapters) around the world whose members celebrate all things Burgundy – the region, the wine and the food. In the Commanderie du Canada there are seven Sous-Commanderies.

As early as 1940 the Grand Conseil de France created an American branch in New York and in New Orleans, and in and 1946 in Washington DC. Today, it boasts some 2,300 members of the Sous-Commanderies from the East Coast to California. They are part of the 12,000 members throughout the world, 5,500 of whom are members in France.

Around the world:

Other branches were created around the world: in Morocco (1949), Senegal (1953), Ivory Coast (1963), Australia (1964), Bermuda (1974), Puerto Rico (1981), Venezuela (1982), Canada (1991), Japan (1995), Latin America (1997), China (1997), and some sub-branches in Tahiti (1995), Mauritius (2000), Singapore (2000), Brazil (2007), Auckland (2008). The new Chevaliers, whether in France at the Clos de Vougeot or abroad, only meet to share optimistic views and brotherhood over a glass of the nectar of the gods.

The Grand Conseil de France:

The Grand Conseil de France is the international governing body of the Confrérie, which is located near the Château du Clos de Vougeot in Nuits-Saint-Georges, France. The Grand Connétable de France, Mr. Louis-Marc Chevignard, acts as the administrator of the Confrérie around the world. He is a very active member of the Grand Conseil de France and one of its best ambassadors. He is responsible for organizing Commanderies around the world, for the administration and public relations of the Confrérie, and for the restoration of the Château. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Tastevin en Main, which is the official magazine of the Confrérie and is published twice a year. Each edition features articles and photos of Confrérie events from around the world.