Feast of St Martin (Croatian: Martinje) has been a part of the European tradition for centuries, and holds a special place in Istria as well. Noted for its excellent wines, Istria has lately transformed the old custom of grape must blessing into an array of small folk festivals held throughout the peninsula.
Every November towns and villages of Istria celebrate St. Martin, the patron saint of wine and winegrowers. It’s a happy occasion - young wines are tasted, and the best ones rewarded. Every town and village will use the opportunity to also celebrate their own peculiarities, history and culture. Festivities honouring St. Martin start early in November, when outdoor work in vineyards ceases, and preparation for winter begins.
In some areas, early November marked a time when shepherds would take the cattle out for grazing for the very last time before winter, and the occasion was celebrated with a special meal. As their work in vineyards would come to an end, winemakers would often taste the fruits of their labour together. Many traditions and sayings have emerged from these gatherings, such as the belief that if your wine is most liked on St. Martin’s Day, it will be the best wine next year.
St Martin celebrations originated in rural areas, as intimate get-togethers of neighbours and relatives. Later they spread all over Europe, becoming a lure for travellers and explorers. In Istria, you can learn of many local wine traditions by visiting St. Martin’s feasts. They are a great testimony of Istria’s deep connection with one of its most valued products.
In a broader sense, Feast of St. Martin marks the end of summer, and the beginning of winter. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to welcome winter in Istria with some great local wine and food.
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