Drinking with the Saints: St. John Chrysostom, Defender of Wine

It’s been a while since I posted about one of my favorite activities – sipping alongside members of the haloed class. The Christian calendar is chock-full of fêtes dedicated to sacraments, feast days, and name days, so it’s only natural that some enterprising drinker would make the connection between religious observance and revelry.

Unfortunately, The Derv can’t claim credit for making that brilliant connection: that honor goes to Michael P. Foley, author of Drinking with the Saints -The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour. In his book, Foley has compiled a year’s worth of cocktails, beer, and wine suggestions to help celebrate your favorite patron saints.

January 27th belongs to St. John of Constantinople, whose orations earned him the moniker Chrysostom, meaning “golden-mouthed.” Apparently he was also a staunch defender of the church, relentlessly pursuing its enemies and refusing even small compromises with them. That earned him another nick-name, The Man without Knees, a tribute to his unyielding (and most likely, uncomfortable) nature.

St John Chrysostom monastery icons dot com

Ever vigilant, as he no doubt was, St. John probably needed a little help in the relaxation department. After all, chasing down and chastising heretics is exhausting business, especially for a Type-A guy like him. It will come as no surprise to modern-day tipplers that St. John was also a big oenophile, someone who understood the healing properties of a glass of wine after a rough day on the parish beat.

In a letter to Paul, St. John urged him to “take refuge in the healing virtue of wine-drinking.” He further advised, “Not that to drink wine is shameful, God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretics . . . .” He went on to recommend the harshest penalties for anyone accused of such heresy. By my logic that would include anyone daring to speak out against the drinking of wine. Right?

St. John offered up some creative options for shaming a blasphemer: “Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow.” You get the idea. I personally think it would end better for everyone if they just sat down and shared a bottle of wine. No problem’s too tough that it can’t be solved over a glass or three of Cabernet!

Even in our current political climate, where family members hurl insults at one another during Thanksgiving dinner, and where college students try to out- outrage those with whom they disagree – wine is the answer. (Assuming all can agree on WHICH wine to open!)

What to Drink in Honor of St. John

A bit tricky, this one. Maybe a wine paying homage to John’s home town of Constantinople? My husband and I are lucky enough to have a fantastic Turkish restaurant in our neighborhood. Peri Ela is a tiny spot that feels more like a friend’s living room than a New York City restaurant. And the food is always fresh, full of Mediterranean flavors. The last time we ate there, we tried a Turkish Chardonnay that was, well, interesting. But it did get me thinking about Turkish wines in general, and indigenous grapes, in particular. (Note to self – explore this!)

Peri Ela Dining Room (2)
Peri Ela Restaurant. Cozy, artsy, and delicious!
Peri Ela Branzino
Grilled Branzino


Peri Ela Hummus (2)
Smoked eggplant dip


Peri Ela Chardonnay
Turkish Chardonnay

If your local wine store’s inventory is (understandably) a little light on Turkish wine, how about one from France? Specifically, one from Burgundy’s hallowed Côte d’Or. Why not celebrate the sweet-talker with the golden mouth with a wine from the golden coast?

Faively Gevrey Chambertin
Pinot Noir from Premier Cru Vineyard Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Cazetiers”

Take your pick: Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Both feature prominently in the wines from the Côte d’Or. Just remember to toast St. John Chrysostom, pious protector of wine, as you raise your glass.



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