Friday, 22 January 2021

22 January: Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia

January 22, 2021 – January 22 is Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia. Marked significantly in continental winemaking regions, its folk traditions pre-date Christianity and are celebrated with food, wine, music and merriment

Nearing the end of January, it's not uncommon to see snow on the fields of Croatia. The ground can be hard, brittle, frozen. There's little to be done in them right now. And yet, on 22 January in Croatia, winemakers traditionally head to their vineyards. They do this not to undertake a day's work – for today is a day of rest. Instead, they go there to mark the tradition of Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

Croatia_Baranja_Belje_Vineyard_0184_1.jpgSt. Vincent's Day in Baranja © Romulić & Stojčić

Vinceška, Vincekovo, Vinkovo, Vincelovo, Vinceće - St. Vincent's Day

As a name, Vincent has many variants, Vinko being one popular in Croatia. Similarly, Vincekovo is also known by several different names. For example, St. Vincents Day in Baranja is called Vinceška, in Erdut it's Vincekovo, in Ilok it's Vinkovo, but you can also hear it called Vincelovo and even Vinceće.

Vincekovo_GVT-2019-14a_1.jpgVincekovo marked with wine and meat in traditional folk costume in Varaždinske Toplice © Grad Varaždinske Toplice

Vincekovo is mostly marked in the northern continental area of the country and throughout the entire far east of Croatia - eastern Slavonia, Baranja and the Croatian part of Syrmia, around Ilok. In these places, it is a day inextricably linked with the production of wine. That people seem to associate St Vincent as 'the wine guy' seems reasonable – Vinko and vino (the Croatian word for wine) are almost the same, right? Well, not quite.

The related name Viktor (also used in Croatia) actually gives us the best example of the meaning of the name. Vincent comes from the Latin word 'vincere' (to conquer or to be victorious). But, although it looks similar in Latin, the word for wine is much, much older. And it may have an entirely different root.

Ilok2020.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2020 © Youtube screenshot

Why we say 'wine'

Nobody is really sure where the word 'wine' comes from. The ancient Greek word 'oinos' certainly pre-dates the Latin but its true origins have been lost in time. This provides an entertaining mystery for today. Fascinatingly, we find a common origin word for wine in several completely different language groups.

You can trace the historic use of the word 'wine' through a vast territory. In ancient times, the name was used in the area of what is today southern Russia and nearby in the Caucasus. Although they belong to a different non-Indo European language group, peoples in what is modern-day Georgia used the same word. In the western Semitic languages of the Levant (Arabic: wain, Hebrew: yayin) it is the same. In Mediterranean languages like Latin and Greek, it is also virtually the same word. Travelling back up to the territory of modern-day Russia, this time through regions where ancient Slavic and Germanic languages were spoken, the word is still the same. It seems that ever since people learned how to cultivate and ferment grapes, they have somehow all referred to the end product using the same word.

Who knows? Perhaps there is a shared origin for the words? As any winemaker will tell you, to make good wine, you do need to conquer the vines. DNA testing proves that the vines from which we grow grapes originally come from varieties that grew historically in the wild in an area that is today Russia and central Europe. Yet, the earliest traces of wine production are found in more southerly regions, where the climate is warmer. This journey itself is a conquering act of cultivation. In early Indo-European languages, the root 'wei' means to turn or to bend. Could the word wine be referring to human manipulation of the wild vines?

The earliest evidence of grapevine cultivation and wine production comes from the South Caucasus, present-day Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years.

1275px-Barry_capitaine._F._25._Grand_vase_pour_la_conservation_du_vin_en_Kacheti_Géorgie._Mission_scientifique_de_Mr_Ernest_Chantre._1881.jpgA Georgian man in traditional dress stands alongside a qvevri, a clay pot used for making Georgian wine in 1881. Once filled, the clay amphora are buried beneath the ground, which helps regulate the temperature of the fermenting wine. Evidence of winemaking in the region is the oldest in the world - it goes back 8000 years  © Public domain

Saint Vincent aka Vincent of Saragossa (Vinko iz Zaragoze)

Vicente_de_Zaragoza_by_Tomás_Giner_14621466_1.jpgVicente de Zaragoza by Tomás Giner

Although several saints share the name Vincent, the Saint Vincent we celebrate on 22 January is Vincent of Saragossa. Born to a well-off family in Saragossa (Zaragoza), north-eastern Spain, Vincent devoted his life to the church and became deacon in the Church of Saragossa. He was tortured under the persecution of Christians demanded by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Vincent was asked to renounce his faith - which he refused to do. Subsequently, he was martyred around the year 304. We mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia and the western Christian world on 22 January as this is presumed to be the actual day of his death. Vincent of Saragossa is not only the patron saint of winemakers but also of vinegar makers. This may come as a comfort to some less able wine producers.

Basilica_del_Pilar-sunset.jpgCathedral-Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Saragossa, the birthplace of St Vincent © Paulo Brandao

Quite why the midwinter period of 22 January should be significant to winemakers poses some questions. “I have no idea!” one Dalmatian winemaker told TCN when asked to explain the significance of the day to his craft. “But, you know those Slavonians are all crazy, right?” And, on the surface, his unknowing is quite understandable. There is little happening in the frozen fields right now. But, it is possible that this celebration pre-dates not only St Vincent but also Christianity itself.

History of 22 January as Saint Vincent's Day (Vincekovo)

Vincekovo-slika-Likovna-Republika.jpgA Croatian painting tellingly shows how traditions of St Vincent's Day in Croatia have little changed over the years © Tourist Board Jestrebarsko

Everyone's favourite ancient God at the party, Dionysus had a wide portfolio of fun stuff to look after. He was the Greek God of wine, the grape harvest, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre. He was traditionally celebrated in the period from the 11th to the 13th of anthesterion - which in today's calendar corresponds to the period between late January - around now - and the start of February. On the wild feast of Dionysus (who is sometimes called Bacchus or Liber, as in liberty, freedom), barrels of new wine were broken open. The celebration marked the impending arrival of the new season – spring. And, this too is how people mark St Vincent's Day in Croatia.

1775px-Cornelis_de_Vos_-_El_triunfo_de_Baco.jpgThe Triumph of Bacchus, a 17th-century painting by Cornelis de Vos © Public domain

Several saints' days in Croatia and Europe correspond to significant points in the agricultural calendar. This tellingly reveals their pre-Christian roots. Another of those corresponding to winemaking is Martinje – St Martin's Day in Croatia (which you can read about here). However, Martinje is traditionally a more proletarian festivity – it comes at the end of the harvest when there is no more hard work for all the manual labourers to do. Vincekovo is a day more traditionally associated with their boss - the vineyard owner. It is also traditionally a more testosterone-filled affair – a sausage party, perhaps. Well, you could say that, and in more ways than one.

Vinceška-Vina-Belje-2019-21-960x640meats.jpgKulen and other sausages, hung traditionally beside the vines on St Vincent's Day - the company that made these, Belje, is one of the best and most famous in Croatia. They trace their history in the Baranja region back to the year 1697. In Baranja, you'll most likely hear this day called Vinceška © Belje

Music, food, theatre and wine - traditions of Vincekovo, Saint Vincent's Day in Croatia

Around this time of year, vines within the vineyard will be cut back. There are a limited amount of nutrients that can pass down a vine. This cutting back ensures the nutrients are concentrated and helps guarantee a limited but good crop. Whether this cutting back has actually taken place in days prior, on Vincekovo vineyard owners are charged with visiting their vines. Whatever the weather, they will march into the fields and ceremoniously cut back a vine. Usually, it's one with at least three new buds on. Traditionally, this vine is then brought into the home and placed in a watered jar. The progress of the buds supposedly predicts the next season's crops. Many other folk traditions associated with Vincekovo also serve the same purpose of 'predicting the crops'. Melting snow, rain and sunshine on Vincekovo are also regarded as predictors of a fine harvest. Although, some believe that water dripping from the eaves on Vincekovo could mean the year will be wet.

Pavlomir_Novi_Vinodol_Primorsko-Goranska.jpgVincekovo celebrated in Pavlomir, Novi Vinodol, Primorsko-Goranska County © Youtube screenshot

Again following Dionysian traditions, Slavonian people are famously gregarious. They rarely make the trip to the vineyard alone. Neighbours, family, friends and even musicians might make the journey with them and join in the blessing of the vines. In Croatia today, you can still see some people undertaking this ceremony in traditional folk costume.

Vinkovo_in_Ilok_2019.jpgVinkovo in Ilok 2019. Brrrrrr! © Youtube screenshot

The vine that has been pruned is ritually sprinkled with old wine. Song and drinking accompany the ceremony. Both old and new wine may make an appearance. No Slavonia or Baranja party is complete without kulen, their king of sausages. And, on Vincekovo, it is traditional to hang kulen and/or švargla (another monstrous portion of preserved pig product) from a post. Supposedly, this theatre is done in order to encourage the next season's crop to be as fertile and bountiful as these sizeable sausages.

1626px-Sacrificio_a_Baco_Massimo_Stanzione.jpgSacrifice to Bacchus by Massimo Stanzione c. 1634 © Public domain. Some of the folk traditions observed on St Vincent's Day in Croatia probably pre-date Christianity

Hearty snacks usually accompany the celebration in the fields. After the ceremonious part is taken care of, people now think to return indoors. Although, not necessarily to your own home. Because now is the traditional time to march around the locale to visit the wine cellars of your neighbouring growers. If you're a winemaker of a Dionysian bent, you'll probably take along some food with you like kulen, a roasted pig or even the tamburica musicians who came to the fields with you. Croatians rarely arrive at a party with empty hands. If such treats are not taken to the event, probably they'll already be waiting in your neighbour's cellar. Although, you might have to pace yourself. If you live in an area of traditional winemaking, there could be quite a lot of neighbouring wine cellars to visit. Subsequently, celebrations on Vincekovo - St Vincent's Day in Croatia - can extend well into the night.

fishp.jpegFiš paprikaš is a spicy river fish stew, richly red from paprika. It is popular in Slavonia, Baranja and Syrmia. Along with the wild meats stew čobanac and whole šaran (carp), butterflied and cooked outside over an open flame, it is a warming and popular dish to eat in eastern Croatia on St Vincent's Day © Romulić & Stojčić

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Ilok Cellars Brings Extensive Collection To Your Door with New Online Winery

May 9, 2020 - Wine lovers of Ilok Cellars can now order their favorite wine from the comfort and safety of their home, as Ilok Cellars opened the virtual doors of its new online wine shop.

Chances are, you've heard a thing or two about Ilocki Podrumi (Ilok Cellars), as it is perhaps the biggest hit in Croatia's easternmost town of Ilok. It is the winery that provided 11,000 bottles of wine for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in London back in 1953, and more for the royal weddings of William and Kate, and Harry and Meghan. It is also a winery which was the most decorated in the history of Croatian wine, and one which had the most incredible survival story from the Homeland War. 

You could say that Ilok Cellars is quite famous. 

And now, in the corona era, HRTurizam writes that it won't be hard to find your favorite wine in the winery's new online wine shop, as Ilok Cellars has included its entire range in the online offer.

This extensive collection presents an ideal wine for all occasions. Whether you're toasting to good news, surprising your loved one, or just enjoying your favorite book, you'll find a wine that suits you for every moment.

Graševina, Kapistran white and Kapistran red from the classic line of wines go with everything you love, and can be widely applied in gastronomy to pair with your daily menu. 

The new vintage from the selected wine line of Ilok Cellars is ideal for every day and with every lunch, thanks to its youthfulness and freshness.

For special occasions, there are top wines from the unique, richly sunny wine-growing position of Principovac. The limited Principovac line in its palette offers semi-dry and semi-sweet Graševina, Chardonnay and Traminac, which make the perfect wines for a celebration.

In the online wine shop of Ilok Cellars, you will find all the predicate Traminers, from late to ice harvest, for those most special occasions and moments to remember.

Delivery is free for all orders over 350 kuna, and is currently done only in Croatia.

Order your favorite wine from Ilok cellars here.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Friday, 19 April 2019

WOW Members, Iločki Podrumi and Bottega Among the Stars!

On Wednesday, April 17, at the Bornstein wine bar and wine shop at Zagreb's Kaptol, the first edition of the small but stellar wine project of the charming name WOW ASTRO WINE was held. It was a fun and educational evening in which wines and astrology merged.

The project was created under the auspices of the WOW association and was conceived by WOW member Maja Kuzmanović, WSET2, with the support of astrologist Jadranka Perić Adrianna Astrology. The idea was strongly supported by WOW president Sanja Muzaferija and Doris Srpek, a WOW member who hosted the event at the legendary premises of Bornstein, the oldest, but also the most innovative Zagreb wine shop.

The wine-astrology event included all the Zodiac signs and astrology in general – as an introduction to the future even more exciting and more specialised evenings about stars and wines. All 12 Zodiac signs were compared in the context of significant varieties of grapes and wines, so we could find out, at least in principle, who is what kind of taster, which wine should be given as a present to whom, who enjoys which wine characteristics...

190419-wow2.jpeg

With the help of the Bottega brand ambassador, sommelier Ines Matić, the evening started with sparks – the 2017 Bottega Prosecco Milessimato. Fresh, fruity and herbal at the same time, it sparked until the presentation of the first of the four wines by Iločki Podrumi (Ilok Cellars) which were described by Željka Balja, who briefly told the history of the great winery.

Did you know that every moment, every event and not just every person – can have their natal map? This event was held in the sign of Aries, and for this reason, the first selected wine was 2018 ROSÉ FRANKOVKA by Iločki Podrumi, a wine of exceptional freshness and fruity aroma, with emphasis on raspberry, ideally suited to the dynamic energy of Aries. The harmony and elegance of the body, as well as outstanding balance, are undoubtedly the features of Libra. And the ascendant of the event was in the sign of Libra, as well as the Moon that was also in Libra that evening.

190419 wow3

The second wine was 2011 GRAŠEVINA VELIKA BERBA 2011 by Iločki Podrumi. The wine proved that this vintage was extraordinary and that it was indeed great in every respect. Dry, gold-yellow colour, with fruity aromas of apples, pears and dried fruits, creamy and complex, aged in barrels for three years. Sagittarius best describes this wine, just like this wine can describe the Sagittarius as a person in love with everything unknown to him, the new, the big, the solemn... The wine was so expressive that even the audience immediately guessed to whom it "belongs" and with whom it is best paired.

190419 wow4

The third wine was 2017 KAPISTRAN CRNI, another top-quality wine, with 70% of Frankovka and 30% of Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby red colour, delicate fruity aromas with notes of blackberry and plum, and a light touch of smoke and black chocolate, full, complex... The astrological-oenological analysis concluded that it is mystical like Scorpio – governed by the powerful Pluto, intense, passionate, fearless and emotional. With a dose of chilly-spiced snack, the wine became even more powerful.

190419 wow5

The evening ended with a predicate wine – Traminac of the selected harvest 2016. The fine wine of the amber colour, intense and rich in rose scent, with gentle honey notes. Full, harmonious, sweet, but well-balanced – it matches the Zodiac sign of Libra which loves refined tastes and scents, romance and all that is sensuous.

190419 wow6

The guests and media representatives went home satisfied with the excellent snacks by Bornstein, enchanted with the music selected according to the Zodiac sign of each of the presented wines, rapt with wine and stars – which were definitely on the WOW side that evening.

Until the next time, let stars and your favourite wine protect you.

More wine news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

All photos by Silvija Munda

Monday, 12 March 2018

Eastern Croatia - Great Potential for Cultural Tourism

Not many particularly positive stories come out of Slavonia these days, but the potential is there, should someone tap into it...

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Drink Croatian Wine at Wedding?

The royal couple allegedly wants the same wine which was served at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation 65 years ago.

Monday, 23 January 2017

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