While burgundy is full of wine celebrations, none of them quite compare to the historical Saint-Vincent Tournante. This festival, whose roots date back to the middle ages, has many traditions. Most importantly and to this day the event marks the occasion to promote the wines of Burgundy, foster solidarity between winemakers and pay tribute to Saint-Vincent, the patron saint of wine.
Every year, a different village belonging to one of the 80 Saint-Vincent Brotherhoods is chosen to host the event. This year the beautiful village of Saint-Aubin (just behind Chassagne-Montrachet) was where more than 40,000 oenophiles gathered in celebration of the occasion.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The festivities begin early Saturday morning with the ritual Saint-Vincent Mass, followed by a procession where winemakers carry antique wooden statues of their patron saint through the vineyards in an annual rite known as the St. Vincent Tournant. Shortly after the procession, the local winemakers open their cellar doors and the tastings begin.
As this was my first St.Vincent I wanted to get the full experience, which for me includes using public transport to and from the event. On arrival to the train station I felt as though I was gearing up to head to a football game — you could feel the buzz and excitement around you as people got ready to partake in what some consider to be “the event of the year” in Burgundy. Although St. Aubin is not far from Beaune, there is no direct train so several buses were arranged to take participants from Changy up to the events in St. Aubin.
On arrival to the village I headed up to one of the first ticket stands to purchase my pack de dégustationwhich included a glass, tasting tickets, and a handy glass holder to hang from my neck. The tasting tickets were divided into three whites and two reds, each from different vintages and ranging from village level to 1er Cru, as unfortunately there are no Grand Crus in this appellation. You were also given a “freebie” ticket to go back and get another glass of whatever wine you liked best.
As I walked to the first tasting stand I was taken aback by how beautifully the village was decorated. The local residents go to great lengths to embellish the town and their houses for the occasion. Traditional handmade paper flowers are adorned throughout the trees and gardens of the village, making it feel almost like spring. It was really impressive to say the least.
The six St. Vincent cuvees wine served at each of the tasting stands were fittingly from the vines of St. Aubin – made and vinified from grapes donated by the various vignerons of the village. Each bottle served even had a special label with the logo for the village to mark the occasion. Borderding on the villages of Puligny and Chassagne-Montrachet, I wasn’t surprised to find fantastic whites from St. Aubin. The younger chardonnays I tasted were fresh and crisp and displayed exotic fruit and citrus notes, while the older whites were rich and opulent and showed notes of honey, white flower, and fruit — all were an absolute pleasure to drink. While the reds were also interesting, the real stars were the whites.
I used my freebie ticket at the 2009 1er Cru stand and was happily served by by Thibault Morey of Domaine Morey-Coffinet (who you might recognize from the film A Year in Burgundy).
As the day unfolded each stand got busier and busier. In an attempt to taste through the rest of Saint Aubin’s finest I managed to sardine my way to the front of a few lines where I eventually used up the last of my tickets. By this point I was hungry for a few snacks (oysters, snails and the traditional Burgundy Andouille) which were conveniently located nearby. As the sun started to set and the temperatures dropped I made my way to the bus queue hoping to arrive before the rest of the masses.
In case I was thinking of driving alcohol tests were conveniently located to dissuade me. The ride home was of course filled with more Burgundy folk lore and laughs. The festivities continued on the following day with the same tastings as on Saturday. From what I heard the pours were not as generous and some stands even ran out of wine due to the crowd on Saturday. So if you ever find yourself in Burgundy in the dead of winter, January to be more precise, make sure attend the Saint-Vincent festival – on Saturday! Next year the event will take place in Gilly-les-Citeaux and Vouget, so I expect some Grand Crus finally![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]