Tournante St. Vincent 2014

Dawn had barely broken as the participants flowed through the vineyards of Saint-Aubin past row-after-row of ice-covered vines. It was so cold, you could see their breath. In the procession, members of the Confraternitée de St. Vincent, dressed in red and gold robes, carried hand-carved wood statues of the Saint as has been done for almost 500 years. Vignerons from Burgundy and wine tourists from all over the world complete the entourage. 

The procession led to the church for Mass. Afterwards, it headed for the mayor’s house for a reception and then the vignerons opened their cellars for the weekend’s wine tastings.

As we described last year, the Confraternitée has a mutual support function. If a member becomes sick or otherwise disabled, other members step in and perform his/her work in the vineyard and winery until the vigneron recovers.

Last year, we chronicled the annual event in Nûits St. George, the middle anchor city of the Cote d’Or. This year showed how the event rotates among Burgundy’s wine towns, small and large. Saint-Aubin is a tiny village, population 270. It is situated in a combe, a side draw just to the west of two of Burgundy’s most famous appellations, Chassagne-Montrachet to the southeast, Puligny-Montrachet to the east. Both are Grand Cru appellations for Chardonnay. But an intervening 300-foot ridge makes all of the difference in the world. Never mind . . . the dominant grapes of Saint-Aubin are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, same as in the rest of Burgundy.

Tournante St. Vincent 2014

This year’s event, February 25-26,  was chaired by Hubert Lamy, proprietor of Domaine Hubert Lamy.in Saint-Aubin. Attendance, forecast to be 20,000-40,000, instead reached 50,000. It was quite a burden for the village’s 270 people. But the other vignerons pitched in and handled the crowd well.

On the ancient Roman road

Route N6 runs past Saint-Aubin. It is an historic road known as the Via Agrippa, Caesar‘s main road between Marseille and northern France and on to England. Just over the hill to the west of Saint-Aubin is La-Rochepot, a medieval estate with a spectacular chateau. Twenty miles further west is Autun, an ancient Roman fort and settlement, then known as Augustodenum. Forts like Augustodenum were located within eyesight of each other along the Via Agrippa so warnings and other messages could be relayed visually . . . an early wireless telegraph system.

Next to Saint-Aubin is the tiny hamlet of Gamay, no doubt where the king of Beaujolais grapes was discovered and received its name.

Photos by Aurelien Ibanez