The third weekend in January has become an important date in the diary of the Czech Republic's wine aficionados, for it is then that a group of Praguers, Moravians and sometimes Slovaks and expats, too, head by bus for the legendary golden slopes of Burgundy to part-take in 72 hours of wine tasting and gastronomy - the Fête de la Saint Vincent Tournante. This year was no different. La Saint Vincent, as it is colloquially known, is held in honor of the eponymous patron saint of winemakers. The festival originally started back in 1938 in order to promote the wines of Burgundy, and the first village to stage it was Chambolle-Musigny when 500 participants attended. Except for the war years, it was repeated annually and in a different village - the word Tournante means turning, in other words the festival revolves, with a different village hosting the event every year. By 2003 there was no volunteer to take on the now onerous task of entertaining the hundreds of thousands who descended upon the usually sleepy wine region. The bill for security alone had reached the stratosphere, with helicopters and legions of police on duty, even though little unpleasant inebriation was ever in evidence. For the past four years, therefore, the festival was rather a smaller affair, without the free tasting to the public. This year, however, the tradition was resumed in a smaller form when the iconic town of Nuits-Saint-Georges decided to take on the baton.
As always, Saturday began at 8 am with fanfares and a procession in which over 70 Burgundian wine-making communes of such renown as Chablis, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet or Gevrey Chambertin were represented. Each carried their Saint Vincent statuettes through to the main square before filing into the church for them to be blessed. Meanwhile, outside, the covers came off and the corks began to pop on the specially produced cuvées made by the individual winemakers of Nuits-Saint-Georges, including such stars as Méo-Camuzet, Mugneret, Confuron, Potel or Faiveley. Visitors who paid 10 Euros received a commemorative glass and a series of tasting vouchers, redeemable at a the pouring points dotted around the streets. For gourmets, there were many local delicacies available in the form of Burgundy snails marinated in Chablis, Brittany oysters and palettes of wonderfully smelling cheeses. All the while an enthusiatic musical ensemble called Banda Desperados moved through streets noisily entertaining those in search of the next wine stop. Everyone, including families with children, had a good time, though what will happen next year is as yet uncertain. More info from the press center: firstname.lastname@example.org
Similar article on the Fête de la Saint Vincent Tournante was published also in issue 1/2007 of the Sommelier magazine, which you can read (in the Czech language) by clicking on this icon