THE Skipton fraternity of the Compagnons du Beaujolais held its first event of 2016 - a ceremonial induction at The Coniston Hotel, Coniston Cold.
The group was set up last year by local man John O'Garra, but the actual Ordre des Compagnons was created in France in 1948 to promote the wines of the Beaujolais region and honour its festivities, customs and traditions.
And the induction ceremony was held to coincide with the feast of Saint Vincent, patron saint of winegrowers. In Beaujolais, the feast provides welcome relief from the pruning of the vines for next season’s growth.
The Craven event started with the sound of hunting horns, heralding the entry of the Maître Compagnons - principal members - wearing their traditional garb.
President Mr O’Garra then gave an introduction in French, assisted by Maître Compagnons Luc Daguzan, Didier Da Costa and Simon Farrimond.
First to be inducted - or intronised - as an honorary compagnon was Michael Bannister, who owns Coniston Hotel and Estate.
He was honoured for his contribution to the hotel, hospitality and leisure industry and, wearing his newly-acquired silver tastevin and apron, he gave a brief and fascinating history of the hotel and the development of the estate.
Also given honorary membership was Rena Gueller.
She runs the Michelin-starred Box Tree in Ilkley with her husband, Simon, and was recognised for the restaurant's international success.
The Compagnons also inducted three new members - Cyriaque Lajoinie, John Pollard and Damien Newhouse - who received tastevins, diplomas and a complimentary tourist kit.
Parisien-born Cyriaque has long experience of the restaurant and hospitality industry and is a senior manager with wine distribution firm Enotria Wines;
retired dentist John, a former head boy of Skipton's Ermysted’s Grammar School, has a keen an interest in the wines of Beaujolais; and Damien is one of the mainstays of the Bistro des Amis, playing a significant role in the day-to-day management of the busy Skipton bistro.
The ceremony ended with the traditional cry of Vuidons les tonneaux (let’s empty the barrels) before 40 guests sat down to a four-course meal accompanied by Beaujolais wines.
They were supplied by Maître Compagnon Julian Kaye, of the Wright Wine Company, Skipton, who has been seeking out Beaujolais Cru wines from independent winegrowers in Lantignie, Romaneche-Thorins and Saint Amour.
Mr O'Garra said: "Many from the world of wine are remarking on the exceptional quality expected from the 2015 harvest which is lesser in quantity than previous years but whose quality is set to become a benchmark for this French regional wine."
Among those attending the event were Mireille Béguin, founder of Meet the Frenchies, a Leeds-based cultural group, and Judith Dunn, from the Ilkley-based Upper Wharfedale Francophone Society.
The next evening organised by the Compagnons will be held at Le Bistro des Amis on March 22.