The third weekend in January has become a kind of holiday for Czech Republic wine aficionados. At that time every year, a stalwart group heads to the legendary golden slopes of Burgundy to partake in 72 hours of wine-tasting known as the Fete de la Saint Vincent Tournante.
La Saint Vincent, as it is colloquially known, is held in honor of the patron saint of winemakers, a most important personage indeed. The festival started back in 1938 as a way to promote the wines of Burgundy, staged first in the village of Chambolle-Musigny. Except for the war years, it was repeated annually in a different village - the word tournante means turning - with a different village hosting the event every year. Unfortunately, by 2003 no town would 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 extreme inebriation was ever in evidence). For the past four years, therefore, the festival has been a stunted affair.
This year, however, the tradition was resumed in smaller form when the iconic town of Nuits-Saint-Georges decided to take up the baton. As always, Saturday began with fanfares and a procession in which more than 80 Burgundian wine-making communes of such renown as Chablis, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet and Gevrey Chambertin were represented. All carried their Saint Vincent statuettes through the main square before filing into the church for a blessing. 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 and Faiveley. Visitors who paid 10 euros ($12/280 CZK) received a commemorative glass and a series of tasting vouchers, redeemable at pouring points dotting the streets. For gourmets, there were many local delicacies available: Burgundy snails marinated in Chablis, Brittany oysters and palettes of wonderfully smelling cheese.
Everyone, including families with children, had a good time, though what will happen next year remains uncertain.
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