Sipping with the Saints

In the world of wine, Saints offer plenty of inspiration.

A visit to a wine shop can seem like a trip to church, with saints popping up on labels everywhere—in appellation, winery and even grape names. Have you ever looked closely at the label on a bottle of Château Pétrus, which is named for St. Peter and bears his image holding the keys to heaven?

Think about famous wine towns, like Nuits-Saint-Georges or St. Helena, California— which, ironically, takes its name from the local chapter of the Sons of Temperance. St. Francis Winery in Sonoma, California, pays homage to Saint Francis of Assisi, the protector of animals and nature, and also to the Franciscan order that brought grapevines to the Americas.

Late January brings the Feast of St. Vincent to France’s Burgundy region, where each village’s elite group of wine connoisseurs, dubbed the Chevaliers du Tastevins, celebrate with a grand procession, roasted pig dinner and fine Pinot Noirs.

In Greece, St. Valentine doesn’t have a monopoly on festivities in February. The first of the month is the feast of St. Trifonas, whose image includes a vine pruner in one hand. Greece’s indigenous grape Agiorgitiko also has a religious connection, as its name translates as “St. George.” Italy’s Feudi di San Gregorio’s modern winery and ancient vineyards are on land once dedicated to Pope Gregory the Great, who became a saint after his death in 604 A.D.

Some saintly tributes take a more familial approach. Croatia’s Saints Hills Winery’s vineyards are named for owners Ernest and Ivana Tolj’s children, Lucia, Roko and Ante. While they have not achieved official sainthood, having your parents think you are a saint might be the highest form of reverence.

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