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Saint Vincent : The Patron Saint of Winemakers

The Saint Vincent’s Day celebrations will take place this weekend (21-22nd January) throughout Burgundy. This ancient tradition unites winemakers from each wine-producing village with one ambition: to transport the statue of the patron saint of winemakers from one winemaker to another. It is a convivial time in the Côte d’Or, a time when each village comes together to share each other’s company, food, music, and, of course, wine. 

Who was Saint Vincent?

Saint-Vincent was a deacon, a martyr of the Church of Saragossa, Spain, who lived during the fourth century. He is now regarded as the patron saint and protector of winemakers. Several theories exist to explain why Saint Vincent was granted patronage of winemakers. One theory suggests that Saint Vincent was tortured on a wine press and the blood that flowed from his veins has become a metaphor for wine. Another theory suggests that when you divide the name “Vincent” into two you arrive at ‘’Vin’’, meaning ‘’wine’’, and ‘’cent’’ which is phonetically similar to the word ‘’blood’’ in French (sang).

Pommard 1981: Saint Vincent Tournante

Saint Vincent’s Day is celebrated on the 22nd of January, the day that the saint was believed to have died in the year 304. The day also corresponds to the beginning of the pruning period when winegrowers typically go back to work in the vineyard following Winter’s end. There is a connection between vines that are pruned around this time drip sap, known as the “blood of the vine” – a metaphor that again extends to Saint Vincent’s death.

Vines and branches decorate their finest flower necklaces

What is Saint Vincent’s Tournante?

The Saint Vincent Tournante, occurs each year, the last weekend of January, in a different village of Burgundy. This tradition was created in 1938 by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin (Fraternity of Knights of the Wine-Tasting Cup). The 74th edition of the event will be celebrated this year, in 2018, in Prissé, in the Saint-Véran appellation. In 2017, Mercurey hosted the celebrations with much fanfare.

2017: 73rd anniversary of Saint Vincent Tournante in Mercurey

This saintly tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, when a “mutual assistance society” was created in each wine-producing village in Burgundy. Winemakers were given the opportunity to become members of this society.

Pommard 1981: The procession of Saint Vincent

This mutual assistance is effective, regardless the reason of the winemaker difficulty: health, work, money, etc. For instance, if a winemaker from a village became unwell other members of the society were there to support and care for their poorly neighbor. This sense of compassion is what winemakers promised each other when they were inducted into this ‘’society’’. Think of it as one of the earliest incarnation of Neighborhood Watch. 

Saint-Vincent’s statues from different villages © Maxppp  Thierry Bresillon Godong

Each year, a chosen winemaker guard the saint’s statue for the year and then offers it during the celebration to another winemaker who will in turn keep it for the next year. Following the statue from domaine to domaine, is a short procession of local people from the village. Once the statue has been passed on, winemakers and residents from the village and people gather for a day of feasting, composed of dishes typical of Burgundian cuisine, such as Beef Bourguignon.

Pommard 1981: The feast of Saint Vincent

All day and all night long, Burgundian songs can be heard all throughout the village. One song in particular is sung the loudest. ‘O Saint-Vincent’’. It is the defining anthem for Burgundy’s vineyards.

‘’Bon Saint Vincent, homme puissant,
Pour avoir de belles vendanges,
Fais monter la sève au sarment.’’

Pommard 1981: The Saint-Vincent Tournante

Saint Vincent Tournante 2018 in Prissé,
January 27, 2018

The 74th edition of the Saint Vincent Tournante will be celebrated in Prissé, in the Saint-Véran appellation, located in the south of the Côte d’Or, near Mâcon. During the weekend, many events happen in order to entice visitors, such as several wine tastings and concerts by local musicians and performers alongside the important procession composed of the 90 Burgundian wine-producing villages banners to show the unity of winemakers in the region. This year, the Welsh-French singer Michael Jones, will be the guest of honor, performing on stage. As per tradition, the town of Prissé will be beautifully decorated with crepe-paper flowers, created especially for the event, and in accordance to a theme chosen by the village.

The precession starts at approx. 7.30 a.m., as the sun rises. The team from Château de Pommard will be there, and we hope to see you there too!

2018: The Saint Vincent Tournante comes to town – Prissé!

Saint Vincent Exhibition

An exhibition entitled ‘’Saint-Vincent s’ Affiche’’ is occuring these days at Château Clos de Vougeot from the 12th of January until the 31st of March 2018. Posters from every Saint-Vincent Tournante edition are exhibited, such as the Pommard poster from 1981. 

Poster Art: Saint Vincent on display at Château du Clos de Vougeot


Pommard 1981: The posters have become as famous as the event

Have a wonderful weekend!

Learn More about our history, and the history of Pommard here.