Every year on 22 January, Winegrowers and Champagne Houses join together to celebrate the feast of St Vincent: a day of thanksgiving for the previous year’s harvest, when winegrowers in villages throughout Champagne commit their endeavours in the coming year to the patronage of St Vincent.
Saint Vincent, patron saint of winegrowers
Nobody really knows why St Vincent is the patron of winegrowers.
Some say that after all the razzle-dazzle of Christmas and the New Year, St Vincent’s Day simply marks a return to more ordinary life that people celebrate in his name. Others say that St Vincent’s Day coincides with a favourable lunar phase for commencing a new growing season in the vineyards.
Then again, it could just be because of the ‘vin’ in Vincent – which is of course the French word for wine.
It all started in the 1930s with the founding of the 'Archiconfrérie Saint-Vincent’, a winegrowing fraternity that brought together some one hundred Champagne brotherhoods across 320 winegrowing villages.
Celebrations remained a strictly local affair until 1991, when they became the grand ceremony that we know today. In that year, Epernay joined the ranks of great French festivals thanks to some inspired thinking by Brigitte Chandon-Moët, Jean-Paul Médard and Michel Janisson (president of the Epernay brotherhood).
These days the festival regularly ‘relocates’ to other places in Champagne: for instance, Reims in 1998 and 2007 (celebrated first at Reims Cathedral then at the St Rémi Basilica) and Troyes in 2000 and 2010.
The fraternity of St Vincent is chaired on equal footing by two co-presidents, Madame Evelyne ROQUES-BOIZEL, representing the Champagne Houses, and Monsieur Maurice VOLLEREAUX, representing the Winegrowers.
Members of the Board of Directors:
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