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On Saturday 18 January the Archiconfrérie Saint Vincent des Vignerons de la Champagne will parade through the streets of Epernay – a grand annual celebration that has been a feature of the Epernay calendar now for more than eighty years.
We know that St Vincent is the patron saint of winegrowers, but the rest is all a bit of a mystery. He is thought to have died in 304 AD after being persecuted by the Roman Government. In the centuries that followed, St Vincent came to be venerated throughout wine-producing France, including in Champagne, with annual festivals held in his honour.
In Epernay it all started in the 1930s with the founding of the Archiconfrérie – a winegrowing fraternity that brought together Champagne brotherhoods across the region. The annual celebrations took a new turn in the 1990s thanks to some inspired thinking by Brigitte Chandon Moet and co-president Michel Janisson. Ever since then, Epernay has been renowned as the cradle of one of the finest, most grandiose festivals in France.
The festival will return to Epernay once again on Saturday, to the immense satisfaction of its organizers. Commenting on the event, Archiconfrérie joint presidents, Evelyne Roques-Boizel and Maurice Vollereaux, said: “We will take great pride in flourishing the Archiconfrérie banner through the heart of Epernay – commemorating the patron saint of wine in the capital of Champagne!”
The town will mobilise all of its resources to make this festival an unmitigated success. More than 1,000 people will gather for Saturday’s grand parade, setting out from Champagne Mercier at 3pm – in all some 90 Champagne brotherhoods and Houses, all decked out in official colours and traditional costumes. The procession will converge on the Eglise Notre-Dame in Epernay, where mass will be held at 4pm by Mgr Louis, Archbishop of Chalons-en-Champagne, supported by the Archiconfrérie choir, comprising local choristers and the voices of the ‘Harmonie des Tonneliers’.
Traditional festivities will follow, starting at 6.15pm at the Pierre Gaspard Sports Hall, Parc Roger Menu, with a speech by Jean-Luc Barbier, Comité Champagne general director. Other highlights will include a corporate award-giving ceremony and the handing over of the Archiconfrèrie banner.
For more information visit Epernay’s official website www.epernay.fr or www.champagne.fr
Patrick BOIVIN : 06 09 01 47 91 – Claire ARISTON : 06 80 85 99 14 - Philippe WIBROTTE : 06 82 82 07 02
Il Comité Champagne