Patron Saint

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Saint-Vincent was a deacon, a martyr of the Church of Saragossa, Spain, who lived during the fourth century. He is now regarded as the patron saint and protector of winemakers. Several theories exist to explain why Saint Vincent was granted patronage of winemakers. One theory suggests that Saint Vincent was tortured on a wine press and the blood that flowed from his veins has become a metaphor for wine. Another theory suggests that when you divide the name “Vincent” into two you arrive at ‘’Vin’’, meaning ‘’wine’’, and ‘’cent’’ which is phonetically similar to the word ‘’blood’’ in French (sang).

It may seem counter-intuitive that the festal day of the winemakers’ patron saint, Vincent of Zaragoza, should fall during the winter dormition of the vineyards, on 22 January. Had his martyrdom taken place in September, he could have blessed the new harvest every year. What he presides over instead is the first vital task of the viticultural year, winter pruning.

One of the indispensable legends of the saint’s life has him pulling up for a chat with a vineyard owner one leisurely spring day. Unnoticed by either of them at first, his donkey began nibbling at the new vine shoots. It would later transpire that that year’s crop was particularly luscious and bountiful, and a lesson was learned. It remains traditional practice in many European vineyards to begin the pruning on January 22, in some cases of a single symbolic vine, to insure a healthy season.

St Vincent was the first Christian martyr of Spain, killed in AD 304. Born at Huesca, near the city of Zaragoza in Aragon, some time in the latter half of the third century, it was his grievous misfortune to be an apostle of the faith during one of the most vicious periods of official Roman persecution, under the emperor Diocletian. Appointed deacon by Bishop Valerius, he became not only an active proselytiser, but the Bishop’s own spokesman, since Valerius suffered from a life-saving speech impediment.

Thus it was that, while Valerius himself suffered only exile for his faith, Vincent was hideously tortured over several days, on both rack and gridiron, before being cast on to a prison floor strewn with smashed sherds. It was during a brief period of relief, during which he was permitted sympathetic visitors, that he gave up the ghost. His body was bundled into a bag and thrown in the sea, but was subsequently washed ashore and retrieved by members of the Church.

Seeing as St. Vincent is the Patron Saint of Winemakers & Winemaking, it seemed only fitting that the Priory would appoint an official Sommelier.

The first Priory Sommelier was H.E. Chester Fairbanks Cotter, GCTJ, GMTJ, who was later appointed to the Grand Priory post of Grand Sommelier.

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a wine expert who specializes in wine service and pairing. They are highly skilled professionals who have undergone formal training in all aspects of wine service. Sommeliers are most commonly associated with fine dining establishments, but they can work in many different positions, including wine shops, wineries, and as freelance writers.

The current Priory Sommelier is H.E. George L. Custodi, GCTJ, CMTJ.

Under Deputy Grand Prior Custodi’s patronage and guidance, the Priory of St. Vincent has had the opportunity to offer its own vintage of Templar wine, cellaredand bottled by Windsor Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA.

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