In fact, there’s more than one patron saint of wine. If we look at the history of the Catholic Church, it’s largely centered on the old world wine production regions of Italy and France. In fact, that’s where the Papacy has been based over the years. Given the number of regions in both Italy and France that have depended on wine for their livelihoods, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a deep connection between the historical church and the industry. Even other regions of the old world take part with their own patron saint of wine, like Spain and much of eastern Europe. But, you’ll also see a heavy German connection, as the closest group of “pagans” the church had long coveted converts in German towns, those doing the work of changing religious preferences in those regions received accommodations like sainthood.
Urban of Langres: A Bishop, forced to flee in the 4th century, Langres supposedly took shelter in a vineyard and while he was there, converted some German winemakers to Christianity. As you might expect, taking refuge in a vineyard might make you more understanding of winemakers plight.
Martin of Tours: One of the more famous Catholic saints, in large part because he was among the first non martyr’s to be granted Sainthood. If he were born in the 21st century, even outside of the religious significance we’d say he lived an interesting life. Born a pagan in Hungary, he was consripted into the army, only to be released after Jesus noticed that he had given half of his cloak (winter jacket) to a homeless man. He went on to be a Bishop, of Tours, which is a city in the Loire Valley. As the most famous Bishop in the city’s history, he continues to wield special significance to winemakers in the Loire.
Morand of Cluny: At home in Alsace, a wine region that should be familar to most, Morand made a name for himself by proclaiming that the fast could be broken by eating a bunch of grapes. So, of course winemakers and vineyard owners revered a saint that was on their side. Much like the concept of not eating meat, but fish being ok on Fridays during lent (hint, the Pope that created the rule had a family connection to the fishing industry)
Amand of Maastricht: So the connection here is pretty straight forward, he spent most of his time evangelizing in wine regions throughout both France and Germany.
Goar of Aquitaine: Good luck if you can follow his life story, which includes outing a Bishop about having an illegitimate child. But, he spent most of his life working and evangelizing in German wine regions, which is the obvious connection to the industry.
St. Trifon the Pruner: I mean, come on right? Largely centered in Belgium, this falls on what as Americans we think of as Valentine’s Day. It’s also about the time of year when the first pass of a vineyard needs to take place.
St. Vincent of Saragossa: The official saint of a few towns in Spain, St Vincent didn’t really do anything for wine or winegrowers during his lifetime. Nor were the cities that he called home, home to the fledgling wine industry. Instead he may have been tortured to death with a wine press (to me, even with the wide ranging saint stories at play, seems far fetched) and his saint day makes for a good first vineyard pass and also, for a release date for Rose.
Ok, so a patron saint of wine? There’s not really a single one. Instead, there’s a collection of saints that either had some connection (real of contrived) to wine industry regions in old world Europe.
Hey, it’s the best we’ve got and these connections are going to continue to get played up over time as the industry looks for more interesting and innovative ways and reasons to bring people to the winery at times that aren’t summer, or harvest.
So does it have anything to do with my wine clubs? No, but it’s something that the industry has noticed, especially because the Catholic Church alone is like a billion people.