About Les Chevaliers
A History of the Club, by Brenda Harrison
At the end of the swinging 70’s, the République’s Ministry of Foreign Trade transferred Robert Jany from its Headquarters in Paris to take over the French Trade Commission in Vancouver.
Over the next couple of years, both members of the trade and wine lovers alike, succeeded in badgering him into filliing a particular vacuum. In the absence of Sopexa, the official French arm for the promotion of French foods and wines, and faced with an onslaught from the New World, French wines were poised to take a back seat in B.C.
So Robert consulted with the Liquor Board’s head honcho at the time, another Robert, a.k.a. Bob Wallace. Acting upon the latter’s advice, and with the knowledge he had acquired in the interim, Robert N° 1 set out on a mission. He rounded up and enlisted a range of local citizens with extensive expertise in differing fields. Vancouver has never been the same since.
In the Spring of 1982 he created a working committee and founded a group known under the name of “Les Compagnons des Vins de France.” The initial committee included Émile Huni, Claude Violet (of today’s Domaine de Chamberton in Langley), Albert Givton, Sid Cross as President, Derek Douglas as Treasurer, and Brenda Harrison as Secretary.
Success came easily. The original membership which attended the inaugural tasting of Borie Manoux wines with Philippe Castéja at the Hotel Four Seasons did not stand at 40 for long. In fact enthusiasm was so strong, that the following year Mr Jany took Victoria by storm and opened up a second Chapter there, headed up by the Capital’s maestro, Denis Glew. Robert and his two crews each side of the Strait worked hard. A Catalan himself and long before his time, he was the first to introduce ‘Southern’ wines to this part of the world. He was also more than instrumental in introducing France’s best marketing success, Beaujolais Nouveau, to Canada’s west coast, aided and abetted by members of the Trade. Consumers were taking note, and so too, was Sopexa.
Robert re-named his club “Les Chevaliers des Vins de France” to avoid confusion when Sopexa began operations in B.C., since they too used the term “Les Compagnons” back East. When Robert was posted to Malta in 1987, it was not without regret. However, successive Trade Commissioners supported Robert’s initative, some timidly at first, but the members’ infectious enthusiam always won them over, and even some of the Consul Generals as well, who, recognising the Club’s value, either joined up, or hosted events themselves.
A later Trade Commissioner, Michel Connen, took the concept a step further. By 1990, the Vancouver office’s territory had been extended to include Alberta, and in 1997 he flew Les Chevaliers des Vins de France over the Rockies, to nest in both Calgary and Edmonton, while still actively promoting French wines in B.C. and the Yukon.
With time, the club membership and Committee members have changed, but a some ‘originals’ still remain to this day. Likewise logos have changed and so have Club practices. The first dinner we held, with Trade Commissioner Thierry Rosset at the Pan Pacific, was a total flop. People were just not interested. Today, members are clamouring for more - but they still want their formal tastings too, not to mention the odd social event to which they can invite their friends. Obviously, some folk want their wine and drink it, and that is what Les Chevaliers des Vins de France is all about. Just ask Mr Sérot Alméras, the Consul General and our current Président d’honneur. He too has started taking the Club home with him!