In general, I like to turn tables, heads, plates and towels, but a saint of Spanish origin who turns from village to village .... It would take all the persuasion of my Burgundy friends to drag me into their joyous sarabande, and guess what ... I didn’t regret it...
Tradition, it's a good thing!
The Saint Vincent Tournante is a true institution in Burgundy. Imagine that since 1938, from Chablis to Mâcon, a wine village hosts the patron saint of winegrowers and mobilises for a whole year or more to welcome thousands of people at the end of January for a most memorable weekend of celebration.
It’s no coincidence that Saint Vincent is celebrated on 22 January, because this is the time when vine growers resume pruning their vines, and it is around this date that this great celebration of the wine world takes place (usually the last Saturday in January).
Initially, it was all about the spirit of solidarity peculiar to the village brotherhoods who had invented a "social security" to help vine growers in distress, who fell sick or victim of climatic hazards (even then!). Since then, each village has its own Saint Vincent statue, which stays for a whole year with a family. At the end of January, the brotherhoods from all Burgundy’s wine-producing areas go to the chosen village to celebrate their patron saint.
As in Asterix, it always ends with a banquet, but let's go back to the beginning...
First there is a village and volunteers who have worked all year long to put on a celebration that may not come back for 30 years. All the generations get involved to highlight the heritage of the village, anticipating the pride of welcoming people from near and far. But let’s set the stage: it's a bit like theatre, there are "scenes" which are repeated year after year, but which people adore: an array of multicoloured banners fluttering under the winter sun, thousands of garlands of colourful flowers, grapes overflowing the harvest baskets and vintage wine-making equipment that recalls the work of winegrowers in a landscape of sleeping vines – welcome to Saint Vincent!
After mass, people watch the impressive parade of saints that rivals the most wonderful Pardons of Brittany, no less than 80 brotherhoods! Finally, the prestigious Brotherhood of the Knights of the Tastevin, whose rituals are inspired by the last orders of chivalry of the court of Burgundy, thanks the former and current winegrowers, sometimes very moved, by inducting them...
Your glass, the Holy Grail
At the end of the morning, the tasting cellars are open, but you can only access them with the Glass of Saint Vincent. Different every year, chosen to enhance the tasting, it is etched with the coat of arms of the appellation and accompanied with its tasting tickets. You can then taste the wines of several vintages and sometimes a "special Saint Vincent vintage" made for the occasion. Take the opportunity to chat with the growers, and don’t forget that this festival is an opportunity for them to promote their appellation and a method of viticulture defined by the all-Burgundy notion of ‘Climat’. A ‘climat’ is a parcel of vines that has its own personality, history and, above all, a unique taste, waiting for you to discover it!
Oops ... noon already and the great outdoors has made you hungry...
Fortunately, between tastings, you can enjoy a good, simple meal, and though it may not quite be a roast-pig banquet, the stalls spread around the four corners of the village will treat you to local products: snails, marbled ham, beef bourguignon. Depending on the village, a gourmet banquet is offered (sometimes with the help of the numerous Michelin-starred chefs from the region) for lunch or dinner with Burgundy music and folklore songs, popular and good-natured.
A village celebrates
A village celebration also means musical groups, exhibitions and events so you can learn more about the wines and the work out in the vines. At the end of the afternoon, after a full tour of the village, take the opportunity for a stroll – there’s always a little vineyard path on a hillside where you can work off the extra calories. Far from the tumult of the village, the winter landscapes are as peaceful as they are sumptuous, and who knows, you may be lucky enough to catch a sunset!
Saint Vincent of Beaune
One week before the great Saint Vincent Tournante, each year the wine makers of Beaune organise festivities with tastings of their wines and a banquet in the impressive bastion of the Hospices de Beaune.