You may know about Burgundy’s annual Hospices de Beaune Wine Auction held each November. Maybe even about the entire Trois Glorieuses, of which the auction is a part. But did you know about Burgundy’s OTHER famous wine festival – the Saint Vincent Tournante?
Celebrated in late January each year, the festival honours the January 22nd feast day of St. Vincent, patron saint of wine (the festival is held on the weekend closest to the Saint’s Day, see the website below for details).
Originally created by medieval wine guilds under the Church’s aegis, the event eventually fell into obscurity. However, during the 1930’s, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, or Brotherhood of the Knights of the Tastevin, revived the festival as a means of attracting attention to Burgundy and its wines.
It worked. Today, the event draws thousands of visitors to a carefully choreographed collaboration between the Confrérie, the Church and local wine making mutual aid societies. These brotherhoods offer assistance to local vignerons in times of need.
Saint Vincent Tournante ‘revolves’ from village to village each year (tournante literally means turning/rotating). While the hosting town varies, the ritual remains fixed: a sunrise procession led by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, each brotherhood carrying banners and carved effigies to the Graves of the Fallen (originally honoring those fallen in World War I), then on to Mass, followed by a roast pig dinner and ceremony.
In 2015, the village of Gilly-les-Citeaux and Vougeot hosted ‘The Way of the Monks’ St. Vincent Tournante, marking 900 years of Cistercian wine making tradition in Burgundy with a walk from the castle of Gilly-les-Citeaux to the Cistercian Abbey of Clos de Vougeot.
Burgundy owes much to these industrious holy men. The monks considered wine making a spiritual endeavor, seeking to reveal God’s voice through soil, fruit, and wine – deeming pinot noir the most expressive conduit. The Cistercians not only cleared the lands of Clos de Vougeot and other areas in Burgundy, but also tended the vineyards, erected stone fences (clos), and maintained meticulous records. Their records proved the bedrock to Burgundy’s codification of lieu dits and climats, as well as the inspiration for the more intangible concept of terroir.
It’s no miracle that the monks of Clos de Vougeot turned Burgundy’s limestone into sublime wines. Passion, hard work, and a desire to give voice to the land – these traditions continue today. St. Vincent Tournante offers a rare opportunity to share in this unique spirit of Burgundy.
Website for details and information about the colourful and vibrant St Vincent Tournante Festival
L. M. Archer, FWS, Bourgogne ML is a freelance writer and member of The International Travel Writers Alliance, with designations in French Wine and Bourgogne Master-Level Certificate from the French Wine Society. When not writing, she’s usually dreaming…about Burgundy.