There is the town of Saint-Amour in the Jura – and the village of Saint-Amour-Bellevue in Burgundy.
Only about 70km separates them but they are tied together by a long history of hearts, romance, and cashing in on their evocative names to lure tourists.
“Welcome to St Amour: Burgundy’s most romantic village,” reads the sign greeting motorists as they enter the southern Burgundy hamlet.
It is decorated with swooning Bacchanalian images of kissing lovers, bunches of grapes and a love letter.
The name has nothing to do with the Roman priest, Saint Valentine, but another martyr, the 3AD Roman soldier Amor, who converted to Christianity and became a missionary.
The mayor of Saint-Amour-Bellevue, Josiane Casbolt, regularly presides over renewals of vows and other romantic celebrations at the town hall, and on February 14, lovers traditionally turn up to celebrate milestone anniversaries.
“The ceremony ends with a glass of Saint Amour, the wine for people in love,” she said.
Locals concede the name of their village is worth its weight in gold. “It’s the name of the town that seduces couples,” said Laurence Chomienne, who manages the guesthouse Ma Chambre à Saint-Amour on 625 route de la Saint-Valentin.
“‘Come to Saint-Amour!’ It has a certain ring to it,” she said. “And it appeals to lovers enormously.”
Hearts deck the town, hanging from bistros, craft shops and cellar doors.
Another local speciality is pottery and earthenware love hearts abound.
The village’s other indisputable love affair is with its wine, and the town hall, which replaces the ‘o’ in Amour with a heart, is its biggest champion.
“It is seductive and powerful,” the official line goes.
“Saint-Amour evokes the fruit and the flower, it delights all the senses.”
The grand cru is one of 10 Beaujolais wine-producing regions and is fittingly described as hailing from a family of “warm, intense reds”. The vignerons sure play up that image. One, Pascal Berthier, calls his Saint-Amour drop the “spirit of seduction”.
For the Revue du Vin de France, the vineyards unfurling for 50km from Mâcon to Lyon along the slopes of the Beaujolais mountains are “the most sensual of vineyards”.
“We finally know which saint to dedicate ourselves to,” jokes the Beaujolais winemakers’ association, the Union des Vignerons du Beaujolais.
“If this charming name could speak of his origins, he would do so with mischief and tenderness.”
The association says the Gamay grape wine “gleams with a ruby robe backed up with kirsch, spice and mignonette aromas and flavours. It’s really not surprising that its following is growing.”
For Jean-Marc Lafont, from the Domaine de Bel-Air, it is all about a “complex and tender wine”, which again sounds perfect for lovers.
“This is one of the smallest Beaujolais appellations, and it is much looked forward to on Saint Valentine’s Day,” he said, when it walks away in cases –many bound for the United States.
Jura’s Love Film Festival
The Jura town of Saint-Amour also takes its namesake seriously.
“On July 14, we celebrate his birthday,” says the mayor’s office, “while August 15 traditionally marks the festivities of the feast day with merry-go-rounds and toffee apples.
“The fête du Saint-Amour has been held for decades and takes place over several days. It includes a bike race and evening concert.”
In February and March, the town also hosts a film festival to coincide with Valentine’s Day – the Festival du Film d’Amour.
Its aim? To foster “a love of cinema”.
Past guests have included director Claude Lelouch, who visited in 2020 to promote Les Plus Belles Années d’une Vie. A love story, of course.