Restoring the exports after World War II from all French wine regions was a challenge. An organization called La Confrèrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin had been formed in 1934 for the purpose of promoting the wines of Burgundy. And in the immediate post-WWII years, the Jurade de St. Émilion had been resurrected to push their wines. Henri Martin, proprietor of Château Gloria in the St. Julien appellation of the Médoc and Secretary of the Viticultural Federation of Bordeaux, was inspired by these other organizations to form the Commanderie du Bontemps. Originally focused on St. Julien, it was expanded to include all the Médoc and Graves regions. Several men involved with the wine trade in New York, including Alexis Lichine and Julius Wile, had become members of the Commanderie du Bontemps. They also remarked at the success the Chevaliers du Tastevin were having in restarting the importation of Burgundy wine to the US. But… they felt strongly that a similar organization in the US should represent ALL Bordeaux wine regions. Discussions were undertaken with Henri Martin -- and the Commanderie de Bordeaux was formed in 1957. The president of Chanel in the US, Gregory Thomas, as installed as its first Grand Maître. The Commanderie became a New York corporation in 1959, and other Commanderies (chapters) soon followed: Philadelphia (1961), New Orleans & Los Angeles (1963), Houston (1967), with an additional chapter in Greater Miami inaugurated in 2016, for a total of 33 in the US so far.
The custom of assembling wise men and leading citizens into councils (conseils) to make important decisions for the good of the commune goes back in France to the Middle Ages. The debates in council, enriched by the differing points of view expressed, thus became a unique tool of reflection and decision. In this tradition, 15 wine regions in Bordeaux had formed each their own brotherhood (confèrerie), some dating back hundreds of years. Each of these, with distinctive robes, was an association of wine growers and traders that undertakes to maintain local tradition, to defend and promote its wines, and to communicate their own winemaking principles. But from a marketing point of view, there was no uniform action.
It was in 1952 that Henri Martin, then President of the powerful Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB), had the idea of gathering the various regional brotherhoods (confrèreries, compagnons, jurades, etc.) and other organizations promoting Bordeaux wines into a new and separate entity. That new entity was called the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux (GCVB). Completing this federation took time, but in 1975 the GCVB became a non-profit organization with the authority to represent all the appellations of the various Bordeaux wine-producing regions without distinction, both in France and abroad.
The current President of the GCVB is Francis Boutémy who also serves as the world Grand Maître of the Commanderie de Bordeaux at headquarters in Bordeaux itself.
The Commanderie de Bordeaux is a vibrant, growing organization worldwide. A new Commanderie has just been inaugurated in Rio de Janeiro, and an additional chapter in Greater Miami has just taken the total chapters to 32 in the USA. After several years of faithful and effective service as Vice Grand Maître des Commanderies, Francis Boutémy has just been installed as Grand Maître of the worldwide organization. He succeeds Hubert de Boüard, proprietor of Château Angélus and also Grand Maître of the Jurade de St. Émilion. A monthly newsletter in both French and English is now being sent to all Commandeurs from the Commanderie headquarters in Bordeaux. A further innovation in the governance structure of the organization is the creation of the Conseil des Grands Maîtres Territoriaux, where certain designated Grands Maîtres representing broad sections of the globe meet to discuss basic policy and to advise the overall Grand Maître des Commanderies in Bordeaux. Every four years, all Commandeurs are invited to Bordeaux for a three-day Congrès Mondial colloquium, the last having been held in 2016.
The Commanderie also is working to address some basic issues. Wine production worldwide has soared to meet ever-increasing demand, especially in the New World. But in France, the per capita consumption of wine has dropped by half over the last 20 years, as the consumption of wine becomes an act of connoisseurship rather than just a beverage. This has put downward pressure on most of the 8,000 separate châteaux in the Bordelais. Yet the 150-odd highly classified Bordeaux wines are selling at astronomic prices, often to speculators and newly interested consumers from the Orient.
Commanderies thus continue their dual roles as gathering places for like-minded gastronomes hewing to a grand tradition, while also making others aware of the glories of the full range of the wines of Bordeaux.
"Bordeaux, toujours Bordeaux"
In 1996, the Grand Conseil de Bordeaux declared a contest for the composition of an anthem in praise of Bordeaux wine. Commandeurs from around the world were encouraged to participate. Submissions came from Europe, French-speaking Canada, and the United States.
Bordeaux, toujours Bordeaux was composed by Eric E. Vogt, Maître of Boston, and presented live at a gathering of the Grand Conseil de Bordeaux at Châteaux de Roquetaillade, June 25, 1998.
Vogt's anthem was declared a winner on the spot by the Grand Maître Jacques Hébrard, and Vogt was awarded "his weight in Bordeaux wine." Fortunately the weigh-in occurred after dinner.
All the regional brotherhoods have their special regalia. It was only fitting that the GCVB follow suit. Accordingly, the medallion we wear was developed. The shape of the shield represents a glass of red Bordeaux wine, though perhaps over-full for proper tasting... The fleur de lys (the historic symbol of France) in the chief or top segment symbolizes the bouquet of the wine. Below, each of the letters "GCB" (an abbreviation of the Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux) is bordered by a crescent moon recalling the fact that the all-important port of Bordeaux was once known as the Harbor of the Moon.
- GRAND MAÎTRE: Angus F. Smith
- GRAND RÉGENT: John W. Pagnucco
- GRAND CHAMBELLAN: Anthony F. Cosentino, Jr.
- GRAND ARGENTIER: David K. Morgan
- GRAND CHANCELIER: Laurence I. Pitts
- PRÉVÔT: James C. Marlas
- ARCHIVISTE: Laurence I. Pitts
- ÉCHANSON: Pedro Pumarada
GRAND CONSEIL DU VIN DE BORDEAUX
1, Cours du XXX Juillet
Tel: 33 556 00 21 93
- GRAND MAÎTRE: Hubert de Boüard
- VICE GRAND MAÎTRE: Francis Boutemy
- VICE GRAND MAÎTRE: Hubert Burnereau
- ADMINISTRATION: Caroline Delaroche