In the 25 months I’ve been blogging and podcasting I’ve steered clear of controversial and personal subjects like politics and religion. I’ll have to figure out a political angle on wine later, but I’ll take on the religious connection now.
Like many in Western democracies, our tradition is Christian. Today in church the lectionary included the familiar Gospel lesson of Jesus turning water into wine. Even those not practicing today will remember the story from Sunday school. Jesus and His Mother are attending a wedding in Cana and the host runs out of wine. After Mary brings this fact to Jesus’ attention and a bit of motherly arm-twisting, He turns six, 20 gallon jugs of water into wine. But not just any wine; one that the chief wine steward at the event deems the best served.
After the service I was thinking about how amazed the guests must have been and wondered why Jesus’ first miracle involved something as seemingly insignificant as providing more vino at a wedding. I’m sure that the Gospel writer chose this miracle on purpose since wine must have seemed like a miracle given to man by God. Unlike other alcoholic beverages which require human intervention, wine occurs naturally without any encouragement. We know today that wild yeasts penetrate the grape skins and fermentation begins within each berry; the technique of carbonic maceration takes advantage of this natural occurrence. To ancient man, it must have appeared to be magic.
The second thing I wondered about was how did this wine taste? The scripture says it was “good” but doesn’t give us any details as to the grape varieties involved or even if it was white or red. I’m guessing the wine was Falernian made from the Aminean grape as Jesus certainly would provide the best wine of ancient Rome to convince his Disciples He was The One. A white wine, Falernian was aged until an amber color somewhat like tawny port or sherry is today. I’d bet the wedding guests didn’t really care about what grape the wine was made from, only that it tasted good.
If this wedding took place today, I wonder what variety Jesus would provide? The crowd would be happy if Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir appeared in the jugs of water, but what if it was a blend of obscure grapes?
It really doesn’t matter, of course, but I connected this story with a couple wines I tasted yesterday. The first was a red blend of Castelao (a.k.a. Periquita) and Alicante Bouchet; the second, a white made from Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat. Both quite nice tasting but a bit of a tougher sell with consumers due to the nature of the blends. I’m hoping more American consumers stop caring about the grape varieties and concentrate on the taste of the wine.