10 November 2016

St. Martin’s: when must becomes wine

san martino

As the famous saying goes “At St Martin’s all must becomes wine”.

But what of the tradition concealed behind the saying?

The 11th of November, a date even worthy of verses from Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, is the day that St. Martin’s of Tours is celebrated. It represents a moment that is a rite, a time of passage, traditionally it was the date which ended the agricultural worker’s year, which meant if their contract hadn’t been renewed they were forced to move and change farmstead. In Northern Italy, the saying “do St. Martin’s” has resisted to the present day to indicate a change of job or house.


Also, according to popular culture, the so called “St. Martin’s Summer” which falls on the 11th of November describes that particularly pleasant time of autumn when, with first frosts over, there is a gentle rise in temperatures again. The tradition linked to this date goes back to the legend relating to the life of St. Martin of Tours, in which, on a cold winter’s day of 335 AD, the skies cleared after the saint came across some beggars chilled to the bone and gave them part of his cloak.


For this reason, making use of the relatively mild temperatures during these days, the 11th of November was the preset date for opening the barrels and tasting the new wine. On this day, the “the sour scent of wine”, produced by the must bubbling in the vats, was commonplace among the village lanes.