It would seem that nearly everywhere I go on a Wine Tour I come across some evidence that St George was there before me… I know he was a very busy chap, but is it just coincidence that some of the places he is most remembered have a rich history of winemaking? According to legend, he was born in beautiful Cappadocia in Turkey, which is also reputed to be the birthplace of Dionysius, and where I have had the pleasure of tasting some excellent Turkish wine.
Georgia itself is now becoming a popular wine tourism destination, one I have yet to explore, but surely nowhere identifies more with St George than the country named after him? Georgia is well known in the wine world for its rich history of winemaking, often still carried out in traditional ways, using earthenware vessels known as Qvevri. Surely the Saint will have enjoyed sampling these ancient wines!
Here is St George depicted in battle with the dragon in the Basilica of the Montserrat Monastery in Catalunya. He features strongly in the legend of this famous “serrated mountain” and is celebrated widely in Catalunya to this day. As per tradition, the men of Catalunya give red roses to their sweethearts in memory of St George. In return, the ladies gift their beaux with books, in memory of Shakespeare, whose anniversary also occurs on St George’s Day. In fact today is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death! St George’s Day is similar to Valentine’s Day there, very romantic. No doubt large quantities of Cava are also shared and consumed!
I found this lovely fresco of St George in the tiny Church of the picturesque hilltop fortress village of Vigoleno in Emilia Romagna. Who knew he was so important there?
I was so surprised to find this! Emilia Romagna is one of Italy’s largest wine-producing regions, yet we hear little about it in the UK. It’s a great wine tourism destination because it is also, of course, a great foodie destination, rich in Parma ham and Parmiggiano cheese producers, and for the motorheads out there the home of luxury cars Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.
Finally, I’ve just recently returned from a wine tour to Greece, where the ultimate tribute to St George is in the form of the grape named after him, Agiorgitiko, which means “St George”, from the Nemea region of the Peloponnese.
This is a fine example of an Agirgitiko Grande Reserve from Domaine Vassiliou’s Nemean vineyards, and features another great image of the Saint on the label.
So what do you think, was St George a wine lover? I’m sure he was- perhaps I’ll raise a glass of Catalunyan Cava to him today. Happy St George’s Day, everyone!