This time two years ago my wife, Casey, and I were planning our trip to France.
One renowned region we were particularly excited to visit was Burgundy. We would call the small, beautiful town of Beaune home for several enlightening days. From there we would travel the surrounding countryside visiting wineries and tasting many of the most sought-after wines in the world. A wine lover's aha experience and a vigneron’s paradise.
It was mid-January, just 10 days before we left for France and we only had one appointment scheduled in Burgundy. All the wineries we wanted to visit require an appointment -- which are sometimes difficult to schedule. The region I was most excited about was eluding us even before we arrived. Winery after winery told us that they weren’t offering appointments while we were in town. Then, the winemaker from Domaine Bertagna, a premier cru vineyard in Vougeot, was kind enough to give us the full scoop in an email:
“The cellar will not be open on Jan 24-25th because of the Saint Vincent celebration taking place in Vougeot. We are quite busy decorating the village and the domaine. This is a big event where people walk through the villages to discover and taste special Saint Vincent cuvees. I encourage you and your wife to attend this event. All are welcome.”
Wow, what great timing! So I started doing my research on Saint Vincent and here’s what I learned.
Each January in Burgundy, locals celebrate the Festival of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of winegrowers. The Festival is organized by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (the brotherhood of Burgundy winegrowers). The celebration takes place in a different winegrowing village each year and includes a morning a procession of members of the Confrérie and local winegrowers, a mass hosted by the Grand Council of the Order, and a celebration of the President for the Saint Vincent village of that year. Saint Vincent celebrations attract tens of thousands of people over the weekend. Visitors pay to tour the village where local winegrowers have opened their cellars for wine tasting, and join in the fun.
We woke up on the morning of the Saint Vincent Festival to a cold snowy day in Beaune. At breakfast, we shared our plans to attend the festival with our Bed & Breakfast host. She assured us that the festival would be worth the effort no matter what the weather is like.
So we bundled up and drove 20 minutes from Beaune to the hosting village of Vougeot. As we arrived, the streets were teeming with people. The energy and enthusiasm of the celebration was palpable. Everyone was bundled up and ready to have fun celebrating great wine.
Moreover, in the town square, the houses were decorated with paper mache flowers and many of the locals dressed up in costumes from eras past. It was quirky and beautiful. The snow continued to fall. Winemakers poured special bottles of wine and offered samples of future vintages straight from the barrel. It was so much fun that in that very moment I told my wife that we need to bring this tradition to Maryland.
And so we are.
On January 28-29, 2017 The Saint Vincent festival will take place in the village of Mercurey in Burgundy, France and in the rolling hills of Westminster, Maryland.
Will you join us?
Here are some pictures from our trip...