The confrérie des Gastronomes de la Mer was founded by lovers of Muscadet, the dry, fruity wine of the Loire, which is gastronomically perfect when accompanied by fish and seafood, but is also pleasant as an aperitif, or taken convivially around the barrel head of an up-enden cask.
The confrérie was started by a group of friends, vineyard proprietors, wine producers, wine merchants and distinguished connoisseurs in 1968. Thanks to its two annual chapters at the Castle de la Cassemichère, its Chief of Order, and its various celebrations, in the original wine region as well as in neighbouring nations, the confrérie has quickly developed and counts today several thousand friends of eighteen nationalities.
The confrérie consists of a Grand Council, headed by the Grand Master, unanimously elected by his peers who are members of the Grand Council. The latter are co-opted as and when vacancies arise.
The ranks of the members of the Brotherhood are, in descending order of seniority, commanders, officers, knights and squires.
Initiations and promotions of commanders, officers and knights take place at the Castle de la Cassemichère twice a year at the Spring and Wine Harvest Chapters. the initiation of squires takes place in ordinations, usually held in the countryside in different communes of the wine producing areas. There are also special ordinations for squires only, held in important centres abroad from time to time.
The confrérie is represented abroad by an ambassador, consuls and vice-consuls who are nationals of the countries involved. They are responsible for the ordinations in their countries.
Wherever the initiations are held, the ceremony is the same. In the tradition of the confrérie the initiation comprises two essential parts :
- the oath of loyalty and the defence of Muscadet;
- the dubbing by the Grand Master with a ceremonial vine root, accompanied by these words :
By Neptune, God of the Sea,
By Noah, sailor and vine grower,
By sainte Anne and saint Vincent, our patron saints,
We acknowledge you as Knight of the Gastronomes de la Mer.
The wine brotherhoods of today are the heirs of the wine guilds and brotherhoods of medieval Europe, often closely linked to the Church from which much of the ceremonial is borrowed.
Community activities associated with the vine and wine, such as those of the wine bortherhoods, carry on their inherited traditions and folklore, and are an effective means of promoting the best wines and enhancing the reputations of the regions which produce them.
Whatever their colour and nature, good wines remain an object of pride amongst the vine growers and wine makers, establishing traditions and attitudes beneficial to the economy.
The confrérie des Gastronomes de la Mer aims to justify and maintain this pride by bringing together, on the shores of the Atlantic, the seafood and fish and the wines of Muscadet and Gros Plant, the wines of the region around Nantes where the river joins the ocean.