While driving along yesterday I listened to a Marketplace report on wine that said in passing that Vincent of Saragossa was the patron saint of wine and that he had been crushed to death in a wine press.
Even allowing for the fact that the Catholic church has some pretty weird practices, I was a little surprised that they would name as a patron saint (whom believers are supposed to ask to intercede with god on their behalf and safely oversee that activity and cause it to prosper) someone who came to a nasty end in that very same endeavor. It would be like making someone who died in a plane crash the patron saint of airline travel. (In case you are curious, the patron saint of air travel is Joseph of Cupertino who could supposedly levitate. Joseph seems like a pretty weird guy in many ways but at least his main claim to fame is appropriate to his role.)
So I looked into it (this is the kind of time-wasting triviality I indulge in) and discovered that there are many patron saints of wine, each responsible for different aspects of its production, though Vincent is the biggie.
The story of Vincent’s death by wine press is not mentioned in this official-looking Catholic site, though he died the usual gory death by torture that Catholic martyrs seem prone to. In fact, there is nothing in his story to indicate a connection with wine at all. So given his thin resume in this area, how did he get the job?
The reasoning is not clear. Some have suggested that perhaps the connection arose because one of the torture instruments used on him was a wine press. Another is the more prosaic one that he became the patron saint of wine because the word ‘vin’ occurs in is name. But there is nothing definitive.
So there you have it, a mystery for the ages.