Saturday, November 12, 2005

11-11 Is St. Martin’s Day

I forgot to note that yesterday was St. Martin’s Day. Traditionally on the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 minutes past 11 o'clock a.m. St. Martin's day is celebrated.

Though it started in France, St. Martin is celebrated in many parts of Europe, including Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. St. Martin is a popular saint, and the day is observed in various ways, but for farmers it signifies the end of the agrarian year and the start of a new one. For vignerons this day is the end of the vintage year and the start of a new vintage; so contrary to common belief, the vintage year does not start in January nor does it end in December.

In Burgundy, St. Martin’s Day is the day for renewing grape contracts among the vignerons, but most importantly it is the start of the all-important task of pruning the vines. Richard Olney, in his book Romanee-Conti, describes the day’s significance in Burgundy:

Burgundian folklore credits Saint Martin with having taught the vigneron to prune his vines (by unleashing his ass in the vineyard to eat them). Saint Martin’s Day—11 November—is the age-old symbol of season’s end and the beginning of a new viticultural year: the vine’s leaves have fallen or are falling; the sap is descending and the vines will be dormant for four months; the wine is finished.

Alex Bernardo

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