By Justin Taylor
The idea of wine, beer, and religion being interconnected isn’t something you find in discussion regularly in 2018, but the truth is that they were once integral parts of life in Europe. For centuries, the message of religion, prosperity, and good health were spread by members of the church all across Europe. Whether aiming to unite and educate or cast aside inherited fortunes to dedicate one’s life to a greater cause, Saints find their place in history through many routes. There are a few however who were known and celebrated for their connection to grapes, grains, wine and beer.
Going well beyond Dom Pierre Pérignon, famed French Benedictine monk who greatly contributed to Champagne quality, the wine business has several Patron Saints who can be invoked from the vineyard to the cellar. St. Vincent of Saragossa leads the way as the Saint of Wine makers and vinegar makers. Why he received the title is not exactly clear, but having the word “Vin”, French for wine, in his names is believed to be a strong connection.
Quite literally tied to the vineyard, St. Urban of Langres is the saint of vine-growers, gardeners, vintners, and coopers. His watch is called upon to ward off blight, frost, and storms that were known to plague the vineyards of Europe. It is rumored that Urban took shelter in a vineyard to avoid persecution, hopping from one land parcel to the next, and was looked after by the vineyard workers. This connection has made him a highly celebrated saint amongst growers.
The fruits of one’s labor can mean many things, but for St. Morand of Cluny, they were his vice during Lent one year. Legend has it that he endured the 40 days of Lent by slowly consuming one cluster of grapes, possibly one berry at a time! The slightly more indulgent St. Trifon the Pruner, whose pruning shears are the symbol of vine-growers, wine and fertility, received the nickname “the drunkard” for his affection of red wine.
The Answer to Wine and Vine Trivia goes to the main saint, Vincent of Saragossa, but I can’t deny some of these others! The Wine and Vine trivia for next issue: What variety of grapes was regionally referred to as “Tryon Grapes”?
Justin Taylor is winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard, Mill spring, NC.