CUC Logo - Maple leaf chalice
  
  Home 
  
  Selected talks 
The Spirituality of Wine
 


1 Our Opening words today is from Aristophanes

[ a-wrist-to-phains ] (450-485 BCE) who said;

Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine so that I may whet my mind and say something clever.”

I did not find that gem of a statement however until page 89 of last year’s birthday present from my wife, the book by Tom Harpur entitled “The Spirituality of Wine”.

I know that Westminster Books might be displeased that I am sharing a lot of this publication with you, rather than each of you purchasing your own, however I do urge you, should you wish to have this enlightening literature in your home to get your own copy as it truly has quite beautiful pictures as well.

This morning’s Chalice lighting:

Rolling Thunder’s words; “The Great Spirit is the life that is in all things - all creatures and plants and even rocks and the minerals. All things - and I mean, all things - have their own will, and their own way, and their own purpose.”


My name is Ed Leslie, I am member of the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton. I wish everyone well; and extend welcome to members, and friends, and visitors, at the Fellowship this morning. If this is your first visit with us, please note the washrooms are on this floor just past the kitchen intersection with the foyer, and also two washrooms are available upstairs, at the top of the stairs. We endeavour to be a scent-free facility; and also everyone is invited to share coffee and conversation after the service; and today we will also have wine, and the fund raising soup.

This morning, I’d like us all to stand as we are able, and sing a hymn I don’t remember ever shared before - and I ask Margaret if she’d play it through for us to hear the melody, and then we’ll sing.

Hymn #65.


Story for all Children - “Simply Smashing”


Sing out the Children” - Go now in peace, go now in peace, May the Spirit of Love surround you, Everywhere, Everywhere, You, May, Go.


Joys and Sorrows - it is traditional here at the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton, for people to share personal joys and sorrows of their life; and I offer this time for anything anyone would like to share, and I acknowledge that not all joys or sorrows may be ready for sharing, and may stay remaining in your heart.


This time I have set aside as “Meditation Moments”, or as you desire “quiet Time to enjoy some good music”. The selection we’ll be listening to is (track#8 on, The Holy Grape) the Sonata for flute and continuo, “Andante” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), considered by many as the greatest composer in the history of western music.

========== 3:50 min. =============


My talk today is largely the writings of Mr. Tom Harpur, from his latest offering, “The Spirituality Of Wine”, and subsequently the “I” referred to henceforth will be Mr. Harpur, unless I specifically state that the words are from “I”, as in “me”. Mr Harpur is a journalist, TV host, and considered by many as Canada’s best known spiritual author. He is a Rhodes scholar who studied philosophy and theology at Oxford. He has published several books, eight of which are best-sellers. His deep love of wine began on a trip a number of years ago to Bordeaux, France.


Sharing is second nature to wine lovers. Show interest and a winemaker will lead you into the cellar and introduce you to all “his children”, said Tony Aspler in Vintage Canada. ( A regular publication from which ‘me’ has learned a number of invaluable tips to making a better wine.) “Me” fell in love with this book from the opening pages as Tom introduced the reader to the how, of how this book came about; as ‘me’ also is very cognizant of circumstances, which some people refer to as coincidence, or as ‘me’ calls it, ‘insights’. .. And now, the Spirituality of Wine:

- My first serious introduction to wine came about as a result of one of those “happenstances” of life that turn out to have a deeper meaning. Carl Yung called these occurrences synchronicities, the more than merely frivolous or accidental coming together of significant events. I was sitting alone in a matchless antique dining room in a large historic hotel, the Hotel Splendide, in the centre of the famous french wine city of Bordeaux. The year was 1972; it was early April, just before the grapes began to bud. The workers in the vineyards had been busy pruning the vines all day and the nostalgia, ageless scent of burning clippings had been drifting gently in the wind outside the doors as I had entered the hall. I was there at the request of the publisher of the Toronto Star, who wanted me to travel the world a while to research and write a series on the issue of quality of life for modern men and women. I had come to Bordeaux to interview the great French philosopher and writer Jacques Ellul. Ellul had once fought in the French Resistance Movement and had later served as Mayor of Bordeaux. His studies on the impact of technology on human thought and behaviour had made him internationally famous. As I began to eat in this solitary splendour, a second guest was shown in by the head waiter and seated at the table next to mine. The moment he began to speak to the waiter I realized from his accent that he, too, was a Canadian. I waited a reasonable time before intruding on his dinner by introducing myself. By a curious chance, it turned out that he was the officer in charge of catering all food and wine for Canada’s then vibrantly successful Wardair, and that he was in Bordeaux to meet with members of the famous Cruse wine-making family. His purpose was to facilitate the first-ever passenger-jet load of Bordeaux wines to be flown to Canada for use on the company’s international flights. There was an empty Wardair plane waiting in Paris and the plan was to bring it to Bordeaux and fill every empty seat and space on it not with people and baggage, but with cases of top quality claret. When he heard I was a journalist, he eagerly invited me to cover the unique event for The Star. I explained to him the nature of my special beat - not general reporting, but religion and ethics. To my surprise he said, “Look, the publicity doesn’t matter. In fact, I’m having dinner with the Cruse family tomorrow night. Would you like to come along as a guest?” I leaped at the chance and will never forget the experience, not just of meeting with my gracious hosts, but of dining in one of the most quietly magnificent dining rooms of any home I have ever been in. It was a centuries-old, chateau-like building and the room in which we met and had dinner was reminiscent of the hall of a medieval castle, - but cozier. There were mounted heads of game animals on the walls and the ancient silver gleamed in the warm flow of scores of candles. Different wines were served in modest amounts five or six times throughout the exquisite meal, each specially chosen for a particular course, with a tiny taste of sorbet in between to cleanse the palate in preparation for the next selection. All the wine I had ever tasted previously faded into nothingness. Matched by the witty, wide-ranging conversation and by the delicious, gourmet cuisine, it made for the kind of evening one might find described in a romantic novel.

When our host, Lionel Cruse, learned that I had never before visited a wine estate, he insisted that it was time I did. The next day, to my delight and pleasure, a driver and car appeared at the hotel at 9:30 am and we spent the entire morning and afternoon visiting several of the Cruse chateaus and estates; visiting cavernous wine cellars; tasting various exquisite vintages of the rich, red wine; and observing every aspect of the wine-making art that was operating at that season of the year. We visited two chateaus in the world-famous wine-growing are of the Gironde, the large estuary formed at the junction of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, north of Bordeaux, and then stopped for lunch at an outdoor café at St. Emilion. The day was sunny and warm and we had a sweeping view southward across the Dordogne and the vine-filled valley lands of Entre-deux-Mers. My guide pointed out that this latter region lies, with four other equally storied wine districts, between the two great river valleys. South of that again, a luxurious countryside gently slopes southward to Sauternes. This experience did not make me a wine expert by any stretch of the imagination. But it gave me a unique experience of one of the oldest of all human activities and a foretaste quite literally of heaven itself! The tastes, the smells, the venerable overseers and workers, the curving sweep of the vast vineyards beside the sea and the sense that something quite magical was in the air - none of this has ever left me. It floats vividly through my mind today as I begin to write about, the spirituality of wine.


Me” knows now the original origination of an advertising slogan we’ve all heard many years from the glorious state of Florida; the original was said by the French author, gourmet and lawyer, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) was, “A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”

Wine is heavenly, both literally and as a metaphor. Like Shakespear’s “quality of mercy”, it “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” It comes first from the sky as warm drops of rain; it flows from heavenly realms as a miracle and gift of God. Simultaneously, it is a blessing of nature’s bounty and a reward for human ingenuity and toil. Nothing embodies and connects the synergy of human endeavour with the energies of the natural world of creation as this most ancient product of the earth. No other agricultural pursuit from the sawn of time has more truly portrayed, and at the same time sacramentally conveyed, the essence of the deepest spiritual realities of our lives.

Nature at this point becomes more than Ralph Waldo Emerson’s, “symbol of spirit”; wine is both the manifestation and the bearer of spirit to the soul. That’s why sacred literature, particularly the Bible, overflows with references to wine and wine-making. The vine is the tree most often cited in its pages - some 205 times. It’s also hwy, from even earlier times, ancient Egyptian tombs and other monuments were covered with vivid depictions of every aspect of the wine-making process, from planting vines, to harvesting and crushing grapes, to the presenting and drinking of the wine itself. Tombs of the Pharaohs were well-stocked with wine and The Egyptian Book of the Dead and other records show a deep belief that drinking wine was a vital, joyous part of any afterlife.

Mr. John Mortimer, in Rumpole and the Blind Tasting, “The purpose of drinking wine is not intoxication,... The point of drinking wine is to get in touch with one of the major influences of Western civilization, to taste sunlight trapped in a bottle, and to remember some stony slope in Tuscany or a village by the Gironde.”

The vine is the quintessential sacred plant or tree of all the old religions of the Near and Middle East. The chief gods of the Greco-Roman world, both as classical art and literature abundantly reveal, were gods of wine known as Dionysus, or Bacchus. Jesus, the gospels say, was called a “wine-bibber and a glutton” by his enemies, because he enjoyed the celebration of friendly company, good food, and good wine. According to John’s gospel, at his first miracle in Cana by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus turned gallons of water into the finest wine the wedding guests had ever tasted. Like Bacchus before, Christ came to intoxicate humanity with the divine wine of ‘life abundant’.

Intrinsic to the quality of the inner or spiritual life we possess - whether it be faith-based or not - is the role of heart and mind in making decisions. Every moment, every “now” is a time for decisions, great and small, unless we are asleep. There is a close parallel in the subtle, yet highly skilled art of making wine - especially fine wine, the very best. What the French call terroir, the right place, with the right soil, the proper amount of sun and rain, the best exposure to, yet at times protection from, the wind - choosing that place is the most important decision of all.

As the experts describe it, wine is a unique agricultural product in that its price often depends almost entirely on its place of origin - even down to one tiny, perhaps even ugly, dried up little hill! The precise spot on earth chosen for the vineyard will ultimately be the key factor. Consider though, the other decisions must be made, such as the kind of vines to plant, or the time of day or even the exact hour to begin picking the grapes. As grapes ripen, the delicate balance of sugar, water, acids (tartaric and malic), and other trace elements change daily. As with our own lives, it’s an ongoing, living process. The most appropriate mode of extracting the juice must be determined, whether crushing, pressing or leaving the grapes to drip. The specific kinds of yeasts to use has to be decided ( the natural yeasts already on the grapes is killed off by use of sulphur dioxide).

The magical aspect, the fermentation process, calls for decision-making at its sharpest - stopped too soon and the wine may be too sweet. Stopped too late and it could all end up as vinegar! What is needed through it all is an acute awareness of balance and of being in tune with the basic elements and rhythms of creation. No wonder the final product, truly appreciated and responsibly handled, promotes and is a companion to, a rich and balanced quality of life.

Pope Pius X11 said, “Wine in itself is an excellent thing.”

And, the famous chef and cooking instructor, Ms. Julia Child said, “Wine is a living liquid, containing no preservatives. Its life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die.”

Mr. Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) said, “They are not long, the days of wine and roses; Out of a misty dream Our paths emerges for a while, then closes Within a dream.”

Spirituality has been defined in many different ways by many different people. But most agree that it is profoundly about our human quest for a higher quality of life than mere existence. Spirituality is about one’s inner life, about the ongoing search for depths of meaning and significance far beyond the grasp of our animal senses and instincts. It flows from a deep conviction that there are forces at work in the universe that call us to transcend our material limitations and to soar to higher realities on wings of imagination and inspiration. For some people, this quest will be religious; for others, not. But one commonality abides. Like the enjoyment of wine, this journey of the spirit is an unending quest and an adventure. The delight is most often found in the search itself.

From the earliest times, our ancestors saw a strong parallel between the repetitive life cycle of the vine and wine, and the seasons of the human life itself. Wine, for example, has a harsh and some might say “untidy” start to its career: when the grapes are at their plumpest and fullest glory, their juice is crushed out of its protected womb and its “blood” is spilled. Wine is untried, fresh, untamed in its youth; gradually and patiently growing into the greater mellowness of middle age; and often becoming something truly unique and memorable in its “wisdom”, before it finally declines and dies.

With the vine, similar analogies were found. Its arrival on the scene is like that of our own eager childhood and early years. Then there are all the joys and vicissitudes of heat and cold, wind and rain, drought and storms, like those if our adolescence and our struggles to find and establish our way in life. Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) called it “the red, sweet wine of youth.” Next, the mature vine bears fruit, becoming truly productive for itself and giving of its energies to others. Then comes death and dissolution - followed by a rising to a renewed life and different “body”. But the imagery of wine and the vine is so rich and so far-reaching in its implications for human life that we have a quiver full of other “arrows” of light to aim, other layers of symbolism to explore. The seasons themselves through which the vine must pass in the annual round, are parables rich in spiritual lore. Some are so obvious as to scarcely need comment: the budding forth of new life in the spring, with its message of resurrection, renewal, a fresh start, new discoveries on the spiritual path - all of it relevant and a potent reminder of what may be going on within our inner lives. Then summer, with its messages of shadow and sunshine; of quiet, patient endurance through the storms or parching heat - reminiscent of our own daily enjoyments and battles in the ‘heat and burden’ of daily life. The poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) used the metaphor of the Eucharist to express her participation in the joy of summer: “Oh sacrament of summer days, Oh last communion in the haze ...and thine immortal wine!”

Autumn, with its thickly clustered grapes and the first signs of the harvest, speaks to our souls of bearing “fruit” in our lives - in small acts of compassion and kindness, perhaps in just being there for others, perhaps in various successes and accomplishments. But traditionally in sacred literature, it is time both for thanksgiving and for self-assessment, or - to use a theological term - for judgment. Not by some stern sky-God above, but in the light of the spirit that God placed within.

Finally, comes winter. The vine’s leaves wither and fail, its life gone dormant all through the frosts, the snow, the ice, and the winter gales. It is a time of rest, of quiet reflect on, of pausing before leaping forth to begin the cycle once again.

Winter, perhaps the one single factor that makes many Canadian wines unique and increasingly sought-after overseas, is a metaphor for those times in our spiritual lives when the spirit asks us simply to ‘sit still awhile’, to ‘wait upon God’ and learn something about endurance, patience, and ultimately hope. A vineyard in winter may seem bleak and sad and dreary to some. But for those with the eyes to see, it has a mysterious, secret beauty all its own. Just as often happens in our spiritual lives - when it seems that nothing is going on or that we’re frozen inside, but the spirit is working deep within - so, too, with the vines. To our eyes, they seem to sleep. And they DO sleep - but as they sleep they dream of springs and summers and autumn vintages yet to come. It is one of the most ancient, hallowed dreams of Earth. Vines, vineyards, and the wines they produce, all speak of the art of aging or maturing gracefully. This, like any truly spiritual process, can only happen when we have done our best and can then relax and trust those powers that lie beyond our culture’s lust for close control. They cannot be forced or rushed. Good wine always speaks to use of that reality.

Mr. Paul Tillich, a German-American Theologian, of the Union Theological Seminary, New York, “Wine is truly the nectar of the gods.... like the Incarnation it is both human and divine. Wine is divine, a gift of God.”

Nobody knows how or by whom wine was first discovered. But in its most basic form it is the near-miraculous, spontaneous result of fermentation - the interaction between yeast and the sugar in the juice of a crushed grape that produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. All it really takes is for the grape’s skin to break. Since 20-30 per cent of the grape’s pulp is sugar, and since there are natural yeasts both in the air around us and on the skin of the grape itself, we can imagine the day when one of our remote ancestors discovered that some bruised grapes that had been put in a bark or stone or animal skin container had remarkably changed overnight. Tasting and drinking some of the juice, this ancestor awakened to a pleasant, not to say ecstatic experience, and what is perhaps the most fascinating story of all human experiments and developments began to unfold.

Significantly, wine very quickly replaced water as the basic liquid used in early worship and was utilized both as sacred drink and as an offering. The colour of red wine spoke deeply of our own life’s blood. The crushing of grapes thus vividly symbolized sacrifice. The poouring out of libations ( wine offerings) symbolized the outpouring of divine energies, of divine life being distributed to mortals. The mild headiness and elevation of spirits it brought denoted heavenly ecstasy - Plato’s divine “mania” itself. This led naturally to the incorporation of wine into the major rites of various religions - particularly those of the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean basin.

For example, Judaism incorporated the drinking of wine from its earliest times and at every stage of its development. Wine was used to sanctify the altar and was itself an offering to God and a means of celebrating the divine presence and bounty. Today, wine plays a key part in all ceremonies and rites of passage, from the circumcision of a baby boy at eight days, to the toasting of the soul of the departed at death. In between, wine is ever-present; at weddings, at the beginning, and ending of every Sabbath and festival, and particularly at Passover with its four rounds of the cup - and always there is the extra, special cup forf the prophet Elijah, symbolic of the hope of the coming of the Messiah.

Mr. Robert C. Fuller, in Religion and Wine, wrote, “Wine brings individuals together outside their accustomed social and economic roles, to savour something of exquisite beauty that has no utilitarian purpose other than the grace it shed upon our appreciation of life.”

An old Italian Proverb - One barrel of wine can work more miracles than a church full of saints.

And, in The Odyssey by Homer. “The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance.”



Some of you gathered here today may remember the song which will be played next, during the offering, and I urge everyone to joyfully participate.


Offertory song: Joy to the World, by Three Dog Night

( The Big Chill Soundtrack = Track 5 )Jeremiah was a bullfrog, Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him a-drink his wine, And he always had some mighty fine wine; Singin'...

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I'd do
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the war
Make sweet love to you; Sing it now...

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

You know I love the ladies
Love to have my fun
I'm a high life flyer and a rainbow rider
A straight shootin' son-of-a-gun
I said a straight shootin' son-of-a-gun

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the world
Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

I wanna tell you
Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me ......

(fading) Joy to the world,

All the boys and girl, ....


Thank you for this sharing and receiving, allowing our fellowship to be sustained and maintained, for our physical and spiritual needs.



Some Statements of old:


John Stuart Blackie, (scottish scholar) 1809-1895: “Wine is the drink of the gods.”


Wine, dear boy, and truth. This is the earliest known reference to what became the proverb in vino veritas = In wine there is truth.” from Alcaeus, 625-575, BCE.


Euripides, wrote in The Bacchae, “Where there is no wine, love perishes, and everything else that is pleasant to humanity.”


In Natural History, Pliny the Elder wrote, “The best kind of wine is that which is most pleasant to him who drinks it.”


Cardinal Richelieu said, “If God forbade drinking, would he have made wine so good?”


In Journey to Wine in Victoria, William S. Benwell wrote, “The soft extractive note of an aged cork being withdrawn has the true sound of a person opening his or her heart.”


In Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) said the words, “How simple and frugal a thing is happiness; a glass of wine, a roast chestnut ... the sound of the sea.”


Psalm 75:8 - “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup and the wine is read.”


A French Proverb, “Water for the skin, wine for vitality!”


From The Talmud - “Wine nourishes, refreshes and cheers. Wine is the foremost of medicines... wherever wine is lacking, medicines become necessary.”


A Spanish Proverb - “Better to pay the tavernkeeper than the druggist.”


Sir Alexander Fleming, 1881-1955 - “If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish sherry can bring the dead back to life.”


In Ecclesiasticus 31:27 - “Wine was created, from the beginning, to make us joyful, and not to make us drunk. Wine drunk with moderation is the joy of the soul and the heart.”


In Genesis 14:18 - “and Melchizedek King of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God.”


G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) said, - And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine, “I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine!”.


Psalm 104:15 - “God gives wine to gladden the human, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart.”


Today we have a custom of taking along a bottle of wine when we’re invited to someone’s house for dinner.


From the medical tablets and papyri of ancient Sumer and Egypt thousands of years ago; to the “father of medicine”, Hippocrates ©.450 BCE); to the Bible; to modern medical studies - all consistently testify that wine is a health-enhancing blessing for most people, always of course; provided it is taken wisely and moderately. Hippocrates, for example, recommended specific wines to purge fever, and to disinfect and dress wounds; other wines he said, could be used as diuretics, or as nutritional supplements.


One centuries-old reason why wine played so central a part in medicine, right up to the 18th century, was because of the inferior quality of drinking water before the advent of filtration and chlorination. Louis Pasteur, who became professor of chemistry and microbiology at the Sorbonne in 1867, said, “Wine is the most healthful and hygienic form of beverage.”

You don’t have to be a doctor to know that, in moderate amounts, wine works as a natural, mild-tranquillizer, able to reduce anxiety and tension, and to induce a lighter spirit; and it can also aid digestion and help one’s energy flow.


Ever since the well-publicized “Framington Heart Study” done in the 1970's, which showed that moderate drinkers had 50% fewer deaths from coronary disease than total abstainers or abusive drinkers, there has been a deluge of scientific studies examining the relation between moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, and health in general. What really sped up the tempo and the intensity of the research was the Sunday, November 17, 1991 edition of the CBS news program “60 Minutes”, which announced to the world what has come to be known as, The French Paradox. The French Paradox refers to the apparently contradictory situation that exists, especially in southwestern France, where people consume large amounts of saturated fats - rich cheeses and pates - smoke cigarettes made of strong tobacco (Gauloises), and exercise very little, and yet, nonetheless, suffer one of the lowest rates of heart attach in the world. The researches suggested that the compensating factor was that the French drink red wine at most meals. In the United States and Canada, sales of red wine instantly rocketed up by 40% and remained steady for a full year following.


Serge Renaud, the original “French Paradox” researcher, later went on to further research aided by colleagues from the University of Bordeaux. His findings were published in the March 1998 issue of “Epidemiology”. A large study he made of middle-aged men in France found that a moderate daily amount of red wine was associated with a 35% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, a 30% drop in deaths from all causes, and an 18 to 24% reduction in deaths from cancer. Many more similar projects with similar results have followed. As yet there are far too many variables in these and in the scores of other studies done since - in countries around the world, from Australia to China - to say definitely that the matter has now been “proven” beyond any shadow of doubt.

But the theory is that the flavonoids or catechins involved - resvertrol, quercetin, epciatechin - plus the tannins, acid, and alcohol, combine to boost the immune system, block some forms of cancer formation, reduce low density cholesterol (LDL), and fight platelet blockage of arteries. Red wine has been singled out because it contains the highest amount of polyphenols or antioxidants of all alcoholic beverages. These mop up free radicals and help prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. However, wine experts at the University of Montpelier in France have recently produced a Chardonnay, called Paradox Blanc, which they now claim has the same benefits as red wine. Other countries are quickly following this lead.


In short, study after study has concluded that most healthy people who drink wine regularly and moderately live longer. My old Oriel tutor may well have had more going for him than his genetic inheritance. According to present information, the single group exception who members should NOT consume alcohol in any form is the pre-menopausal women who family history included breast cancer. Overall, the key always is moderation. Overindulgence is more harmful than abstinence.

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced; the imagination is stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces the contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility.” - Winston Churchill, knew better than most the truth of which he spoke. In his obituary notice in The New York Times, his great fondness for drink of all kinds was described. He drank wine for breakfast when it pleased him to do so, and champagne and brandy and whiskey through the rest of the day. He smoked cigars continually. He never exercised and yet seemed to exude vigour and health. He died at 91. It all finally caught up to him.


From a wine lover’s diary in the 13th Century; “Wine sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpth digestion, it abandoneth melancholie, it replenisheth the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirits, it keepeth and preserveth the head from whirling, the eyes from dazzling, the tongue from lisping, the mouth from snaffling, the teeth from chattering, and the throat from rattling; it keepeth the stomach from wambling, the heart from welling, the hands from shivering, the sinews from shrinking, the veins from crumbling, the bones from aching, and the marrow from soaking.”


The old, classical motto for wholeness was mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a sound or healthy body. But as I have pointed out in my book “Finding the still point”, the new paradigm for humna holistic well-being is that of a single integrated organism made up of body, mind,.... and spirit. These three have been “joined together by God”, or the Ground of the universe, and are only sundered apart to our serious loss. That which enriches and inspires the spirit, uplifts the whole person. No wonder wine’s role in humanity’s religious and spiritual quest has been so large; it lends itself powerfully to the living of a balanced and happy life.


By far the greatest testimony to the antiquity and centrality of wine and wine making for early civilization come from the Bible. The Bible is literally drenched in wine! No single plant or product is mentioned more frequently in the 66 books that make up the KJV Bible than the vine and its fruit. In all, there are over 200 references to wine itself. It is mentioned 21 times in the book of Isaiah alone; 14 times in Jeremiah; 12 times in Deuteronomy; 11 times in Proverbs; 8 times in Daniel; and just 7 times in Revelation. It is cited, in fact, in almost every book of the Bible. It is part of the vision of the Messianic banquet and feasting in the age to come, it is central to the Last Supper; it is at the cross in the form of a wine vinegar offered to the dying Jesus; and it is present at the end of the age in the imagery of judgment in the Book of Revelation.

In the Bible, wine is the pivotal focus of hospitality. Together with corn or wheat, it is the staple of life for the people of God, and a vital expression of all their joy and celebration. “And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man and their heart shall rejoice as through wine...” says the prophet Zechariah ( 7:10 KJV). In the highly erotic poetry of the Song of Solomon, only sensuous romantic love is better than wine: “How sweet is your love... my bride! How much better is your love than wine!” (4:10)


The Bible recognizes the risks of drinking excess wine and other strong drink, to be sure. It warns against this with blunt honesty. But the overall approach is overwhelmingly positive and affirmative. Wine symbolizes as nothing else does the fully civilized and blessed human life.


In all of this, the Biblical authors, over the span of centuries, were reflecting and inheriting the rich wine culture of the entire Mediterranean basin and hinterland. The oldest known laws, Hummurabi’s Code ( from Babylon c. 1771 BCE), regulated drinking houses. Pre-Biblical cuneiform records from Ugarit, in ancient northern Canaan (Palestine), reveal abundant references to the household and religious uses of wine. Egyptian doctors, and the Sumerians before them, included beer or wine in a significant percentage of all prescriptions, according to medical papyri and cuneiform tablets. This reminds us of the renowned New Testament story of the Good Samaritan, who gave curbside first-aid to a stranger who had been mugged by thieves on the Jericho to Jerusalem road. He treated the man’s wounds, “pouring in oil and wine” - oil to soothe, and wine as an antiseptic. This type of “medical” useage is parallelled in Paul’s advice to his youthful Christian helper, Timothy, when he writes, “take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” ( 1 Timothy 5:23). The Psalmist also knew nearly three millennia ago what modern doctors have been confirming today - that for many, the moderate drinking of wine can act as a medicine for body and mind.

The very first mention of the institutional use of flour and wine in the Bible comes in 1 Chronicles 9:29; “Some of them (Levites mor priests) also were appointed to oversee the vessels, and allo the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices.” KJV.


The wine bottles of today date back only about 300 years. The bottles, particularly for champagne, come in a variety of sizes.

Remarkedly, all of the larger bottles have biblical names:

the largest of all, a Nebuchadnezzar, holds about 100 glasses or roughly 20 times the amount of the usual 750 ml bottle. The name is from King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzer ©. 604-561 BCE) who appears in several Old Testament books, especially Daniel.

The Balthazar, (traditionally the name of one of the Wise Men) contains 80 glasses;

a Salmanazar ( after a king of Assyria) contains 60 glasses;

the Methuselah ( the oldest man in the Bible) contains 40;

a Rehoboam ( named after the King of Israel) holds 30 glasses;

the Jeroboam ( also a King of Israel) holds 20;

while the simple magnum only holds 10 glasses;

the litre bottle has six and half glasses;

and the “split”, the smallest, has about a glass and a half.

((there will not be a test of this information, however, just to recap:

- the regular 750 ml bottle fills about five glasses ))


Today we have a custom of taking along a bottle of wine when we’re invited to someone’s house for dinner. Here’s the first known instance of that practice: “ Jesse (David’s father) took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a kid, and sent them by his son David to Saul” (1 Samuel 16:20). Jesse was keen to make a good initial impression for the young man, but it was a common courtesy and an offer of warm friendship, then, as it is today.


Of course, wine imagery is not unique to the Bible.

The poetry of the Rubaiyat of Omas Khayyam is replete with mystical wine symbolism. We think at once of those familiar lines from verse 11:

Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough, a flask of wine, a book of verse - and thou beside me singing in the wilderness - and wilderness is paradise now”

One of the lesser-known lines is even more lovely and revelatory of the author’s deep spirituality: “Man is a cup, his soul the wine within..”


Wine is ... a beverage that goes through a ‘life cycle’, that closely resembles that of humans’ fresh and untamed in youth, mellowing to maturity in mid-cycle, and continuing to show... signs of it’s best qualities even as it ages into final dissolution. It is thus easy to see why wine has historically been associated with the celebration of life and used in ceremonies commemorating significant rites of passage.” stated Robert C. Fuller, Religion and Wine.


Ralph Waldo Emerson, “a man will be eloquent if you give him good wine.” And, his example of a toast in his The Persian of Hafiz, “Let us make our glasses kiss; Let us quench the sorrow cinders.”


Nobody can say with absolute certainty when or where the practice of started of making the celebration of special events, special relationships, and special seasons of the year, a time for drinking toasts. But the tradition of toasting to good health, success, or shared humanity of outstanding figures ( such as the Queen or other head of state) and of those to use (relatives, friends, colleagues) is very ancient indeed. And its central features is wine.

There was undoubtedly toasting in the Bible’s accounts of great banquets, such as the one presided over by Belshazzar, son of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, when he “made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand” (Daniel 5:1). (Belshazzar was celebrating his father’s rape of the treasures of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.)

It is also certain that toasts are implied in the wedding story in John’s gospel, where water was turned into wine and the startled host found he was serving “the best wine” last.


To wine, it improves with age; the older I get, the more I like it.”


Again from The Persian, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Give me wine to wash me clean of the weather stains of cares.”


To wine, may those who use it, never abuse it.”


May you always work like you don’t need money;

May you always love like you’ve never been hurt;

and may you always dance like there’s nobody watching.”


Merry met, and merry part, and I drink to you with all my heart.”


When wine enlivens the heart, May friendship surround the table.”


In all this world, why I do think

There are four reasons why we drink; Good friends; Good wine; and lest we be dry, and any other reason why!”


(Lorna) From Ecclesiates 10:19, “Feasts are made for laughter; wine gladdens life..”


(Nicolette) Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast; “ In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well-being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating, and to me, as necessary.”


(Gail) A Spanish proverb, “ A meal without wine, is a stingy meal.”


(allison) In The Art of Love by Ovid are the words, “Wine prepares the heart for love, unless you take too much.”


(Genvieve) “Wine, to strengthen friendship and light the flame of love.”


(Linda) obert Louis Stephenson said, “Wine is bottled poetry.”

(Sheila) Francis Bacon’s words, “Old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”


(Ken) In Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 9:10), “Do not abandon old friends, for new ones cannot equal them. A new friend is like new wine; when it is aged, you can drink it with pleasure.”


(George) “What through youth gave us love and roses, Age still leaves us friends and wine.”


(Patricia) An old french proverb, “In water one sees one’s own face; but in wine one be holds the heart of another.”


John Gay, 1685-1732, “Fill every glass, for wine inspires us, and fires us, With courage, love and joy...”


And in closing, the words of King Edward VII, “One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it,

and talks about it.”

Closing Words: From the www.winespirit.org;

Whether expressed religiously or culturally, each time we raise a glass of wine.... to wish each other well, we are introducing a moment, and an experience that promotes wellness, balance and good health. It can only enhance our physical disposition even as it enriches our sense of connection and wholeness to all of the people and conditions that contribute to who we are, and the journeys that we share.”


Lich-hyam” / “Go in Peace.”