Saint-Vincent de Montagny-les-Buxy

January is the time of year when Burgundy winegrowers trim branches from their vines and celebrate Saint Vincent, patron saint of vineyards and vintners. For the second time, Eric and I attended the Banquet de Saint-Vincent de Montagny-les-Buxy. This Saint Vincent celebration is a whole day affair, involving a lot of food and even more wine.

Always on a Sunday, the celebrations begin with a small procession of vintners dressed in ceremonial garb making their way to a local church. After a religious service, they parade to the local war memorial and pay homage to those lost in the two world wars. The procession then starts again, this time headed to a local domaine. Each year a different vintner gets to be host for the ceremonial first drink of the day, and at this point the activities become more jovial. A white wine is served along with gougères. In our experience, everyone joining in the festivities usually crams into the vintner’s cold warehouse area and must jostle to get at the drinks and snacks. Perhaps the wine is too cold and the atmosphere a bit lacking, but eventually a group clothed in traditional regional outfits will step outside and perform a variety of songs and dances. Everyone’s spirits rise in anticipation of the rest of the day.

Lunch starts at 2pm, and can last five to six hours. It is held in Buxy at the Salle des Fêtes, probably the only facility in the area large enough to hold all the guests and equipped with a kitchen that can turn out hundreds of plates of food over the course of the afternoon. This year the organizers were kind to seat us next to the only other native English speaker in attendance and in close proximity to many of the winegrowers we have become acquainted with.

Over the course of the afternoon, six courses of food were served. After the first two courses, we were given a little extra time to digest between each course as the brotherhood of winegrowers performed skits on the stage. While our understanding of French is by no means perfect, the skits were still entertaining for us to watch. We wined and dined over the course of the afternoon and into the evening. Not only are local wines served with with the meal, but the tradition is that winegrowers and attendees bring in bottles of wine from their own cellars. This allowed us to taste and sip on at least 15 different wines throughout the afternoon. We were provided with a spittoon and ample water, so we could move from one wine to the next without worrying about finishing every last drop or getting too tipsy.

Every course of lunch was superb, and dessert — cake decorated with large sparklers — was paraded before the crowd before it was sliced and served. It was a lovely, gut-bursting meal.

After the lengthy lunch, the party really gets started with a live band and dancing. The music is a bit old-fashioned and polka-esque, but I wouldn’t really expect anything else given the average age of the crowd. Eric and I tempted fate by going for a spin on the dance floor again this year, and somehow we managed not to take anybody out. I think it’s safer when we just watch though. Everyone is jolly and satisfied by this point in the evening, and it is nice to take a little break from all the eating and drinking just to watch the French be French. Not too long though, because a buffet is served just a few hours after the lunch feast has ended.

Eric and I stayed until shortly before midnight, just long enough to fill ourselves at the buffet, but we couldn’t imagine drinking any more wine after doing so for the last 12 hours. Many of the winegrowers and their friends were still going strong, dancing across the floor and lining up at the buffet for more food. Eric and I practically rolled ourselves out the door and toward the hotel we had rented for the night. I have no idea how the older French ladies and gentlemen have the stamina to keep partying into the wee hours of the night after so much eating and drinking, but perhaps it is just years of practice. I guess that will give us reason to keep coming back to the Banquet de Saint-Vincent de Montagny-les-Buxy whenever we can!

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