The Commanderie de Bordeaux aux États-Unis d'Amérique was organized in 1957 by a small group of lovers of Bordeaux wines and became a New York corporation in 1959. Since, it has grown to include 30 chapters and some 1100 members located in different cities around the U.S. It is also affiliated with a worldwide network of some 75 Commanderies in 26 countries under the overall patronage of the Bordeaux-based Grand Conseil du Vin de Bordeaux. The members of these chapters get together periodically for dinners (called "parlements" from the French verb parler, to talk) and other events in order to enjoy, discuss, appreciate and learn more about the various wines of the Bordeaux region in their different vintages.
The tradition 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.
This principle inspired the formation of the GCVB: in 1952 Henri Martin, a key figure in the Bordeaux wine industry and then President of the powerful Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux, had the idea of gathering the various regional brotherhoods (confrèreries, compagnons du bon temps, etc.) and other organizations promoting Bordeaux wines into a new and separate entity. Each of these 15 brotherhoods 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. 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 appÃ©lations of the various Bordeaux wine-producing regions without distinction, both in France and abroad.
The current President of the GCVB is Emmanuel Cruse 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. A new Commanderie has just been inaugurated in Rio de Janeiro, and the Seattle chapter has just started taking the total chapters to 30 in the USA. After many years of faithful and effective service in the volunteer position of Grand Maître of the whole organization based in Bordeaux itself, Michel-Pierre Massonie has stepped down and is replaced by Emmanuel Cruse, proprietor of Château d'Issan and also Grand Maître of the brotherhood Bontemps de Médoc & Graves, Sauternes & Barsac. Following on the establishment of a monthly newsletter in both French and English sent to all Commandeurs, an innovation in the governance structure of the organization was 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 Grand Maître in Bordeaux.
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 10,000 separate châteaux in the Bordelais. Yet the 200-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" 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.
The golden leopard is the emblem of the historic province of Aquitaine, in which Bordeaux lies. This derives from the marriage of the dynamic and powerful Eléanore d'Aquitaine to Henri de Plantagenet, who subsequently became King Henry II of England in 1154.
Lastly, the bunch of grapes at the bottom of the emblem denotes the raison d'être of our organization.
- 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