Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

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Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sat Dec 06, 2008 6:55 pm

Hello!

I've been told that the wine in the Bible days was diluted or somehow less strength than the wine made today. Is that true?

I know that the wine spoken of in the Bible can get a person drunk, so it can't be too diluted!

I guess my question would be, is there a substantial difference (alcoholic content) in the wine of Bible days, and the wine that is made today?

Thank you!
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Dec 06, 2008 7:04 pm

Wine in blblical times was certainly alcoholic, Robert. The lovely parable of the wedding feast at Cana leaves little doubt of that, with the custom of holding back the cheaper stuff until the revelers were sufficiently lubricated not to notice. (Note also that the Greeks and Romans at the same time, and also the Chinese, write about drunkenness and generally seemed to regard it with approval.

Ancient wine was likely somewhat less alcoholically strong than today's, simply because of advances in yeast and vinification technology; it was probably hazy, not clear, and much more subject to contamination, turning to vinegar after a time, and wasn't packaged in such a way that it could be cellared.

But at the bottom line, it's still just fermented grape juice, and there's been no real change in that over the Millennia. If you could go back in a time machine and taste wine made in the Holy Land 2000 years ago, you'd recognize it as wine.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:07 pm

Back in those days wines were shipped around the Mediterranean in large two-handled pottery containers. Many of these are found at ancient shipwreck sites. I believe it is these types of containers that are referred to in the wedding feast at Cana. If you're serious about studying this topic, I'd recommend you buy The 8,000 Year-Old Story of the Wine Trade by Thomas Pellechia (link)
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Matilda L » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:38 pm

The ancient Romans used to water their wine down to drink it - plain water, or sea water - and sometimes they would add flavourings like honey or pine pitch. I imagine that was fairly common amongst all wine drinking peoples in ancient times.

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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:46 pm

Wow, thank you all for the replies!

I have always believed that wine drinking was something that was "off limits" for the Christian, however, after an in-depth study of scripture, I believe that enjoying wine is a liberty that we have, providing we use it responsibly.

I am likely going to be getting married next year, and I would love to have a glass of wine once in a while for a special dinner together as a couple, starting with our honeymoon!

Thank you!
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:06 pm

Robert - don't get caught up in the no wine teachings of some Christian denominations. Those were not Biblical rules, so anyone who says they were is selling something & it's not worth buying. (I used to have this discussion with my Southern Baptist wife's grandmother who was appalled that I drank wine & got her granddaughter to drink wine as well.)

Now getting totally wasted is not a good idea. Just ask Noah.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Dec 06, 2008 9:46 pm

Apologies in advance for a lengthy response. From the 2009 edition of my book "Rogov's Guide to Israeli Wines":


The history of wine in the Land of Israel is as old as the history of the people who have inhabited that land over the centuries. As early as five thousand years ago people cultivated vines and made, stored and shipped wines. The first mention of wine in the Bible is in a reference to Noah, who is said to have planted the first vineyard and to have become intoxicated when he drank the wine (Genesis 9:20–21). Another well-known reference concerns the spies sent by Moses to explore the Land of Canaan. They returned after their mission with a cluster of grapes said to have been so large and heavy that it had to be borne on a carrying frame (Numbers 13:23). The vine is also mentioned as one of the blessings of the good land promised to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 8:8).

Much of the process of winemaking has remained consistent throughout this time. Already in the Bible, we find a list of the necessary steps to care for a vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill;
And he dug it; and cleared it of stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine,
And built a tower in the midst of it,
And also hewed out a vat therein;
And he looked that it should bring forth grapes.
He broke the ground, cleared it of stone and planted it with choice vines.
He built a watchtower inside it,
He even hewed a wine press inside it.

(Isaiah 5: 1–2)

Vintners in ancient times knew as we do today that locating vineyards at higher altitudes, where there are greater temperature changes between night and day, would cause the fruit to ripen more slowly, adding to the sweetness of the fruit and its ability to produce fine wines. Two ways of growing vines were known: in one the vines were allowed to grow along the ground; in the other they were trained upward on trellises (Ezekiel 17:6–8). It was widely accepted then as today that vines cultivated by the second method almost always produce superior grapes.

Remains of ancient wine presses may be found today in all parts of Israel, from the Galilee to Jerusalem and the Negev Desert. In nearly every part of Israel, archaeologists have discovered hundreds of jars for the storage and transportation of wine. Many of these amphorae list in detail where and by whom the wine was made, as well as the year of the vintage, indicating that even in antiquity the source of the grapes and the quality of the harvest were considered important.

It is known today that even during the Bronze Age, Egyptian Pharaohs enjoyed wines that were shipped from Canaan. The growing of grapes and the production of wine was a major agricultural endeavor during the periods of the First and Second Temples, and the kings of Judah and Israel were said to have owned large vineyards as well as vast stores of wine. The vineyards and stores of King David in particular were so numerous that he is said to have appointed two officials, one to be in charge of the vineyards, and the other to be charge of storage (I Chronicles 27:27).

In biblical times the harvest was a celebratory period as well as a period of courtship. The treading of the grapes was done most often on a gat or an arevah, the gat being a small, generally square, pressing floor that had been cut into bedrock, and the arevah a smaller treading surface that could be moved from vineyard to vineyard. From either of these the must (that is to say, the fresh and as yet unfermented grape juice) ran into a yekev, which was a vat for collecting the must as it flowed from the treading floor through a hole carved in the stone. When natural bedrock was unavailable, an earthen treading surface lined with mosaics was used. In several areas, caves or large cisterns carved from natural bedrock have been found, which would have served two purposes—first for storing the grapes until they were pressed, and then, because they were cool and dark, for storing the wine while it fermented and then aged in clay jugs.

Once fermentation had been completed, the wines were stored in pottery vessels which were sealed with wood, stone or clay stoppers. For purposes of shipping, the stoppers were wrapped in cloth and coated with clay. Since new clay vessels tend to absorb as much as 20 percent of the wines stored in them, it became common practice to store better wines in older jars. A major development, during the third century bce, was the discovery that stoppers made from cork were an effective way to seal amphorae.

As much as these wines were prized, it must be understood that they were very different from wines as we know them today. They were often so intense and coarse that they needed a fair amount of “adjustment” before they were considered drinkable. To improve the bouquet, the Romans were known to add spices and scents to their wines. To make the wine sweeter, they added a syrup made by heating grape juice in lead containers for a long period over a low flame. To improve flavors and hide faults it was customary to add honey, pepper, chalk, gypsum, lime, resin, herbs and even sea water.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sat Dec 06, 2008 10:03 pm

Daniel, thank you for that article! I appreciate the insight.

I am learning quite a bit here! :)
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby creightond » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:29 pm

robert - i think i know where you are coming from. i was raised in a church that taught that the bible only had one word for both unfermented grape juice and fermented juice or wine; so that we didn't know which was being referred to. well, of course, until Pasteur there WAS only one kind - fermented or fermenting. this was the period when dr. welch had perfected - using the info from Pasteur - the 'unfermented wine' - as welch's grape juice was originally called.

the anti alcohol movement was a reasonable reaction to the abuse of alcohol that resulted from the 'industrial revolution' - in which people worked 12+ hours of truly backbreaking work. that they should 'self-medicate' is not surprising nor to be deprecated. but alcoholism along with the other consequences of the industrial revolution were very negative on family and society and were justifiably opposed by reasonable and sensitive people. many of these were religous people who necessarily sought a religious foundation for their opposition to these evils of industrialism. the bible of course is very compliant - you can find just about whatever you want there; and they did. 'wine is a mocker' etc.

but they were aided by pasteur who made it possible for dr. welch to create an unfermented grape juice. without that technology grape juice always ferments; and does so immediatly. this utterly new differentiation between fermented and unfermented grape juice was read back into the bible where no such difference could possibly exist. they were well meaning people who saw the evils of the day and found some sort of solution as best they could.

you, however, are a reasonable person with the perspective of history and science. best wishes on your upcoming marriage. david
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby creightond » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:34 pm

but in answer to your original question: we are fairly certain that wines in the mediterranean region were significantly sweeter than we prefer today. since they had no reliable way to stop fermentation, i think we can assume that they were also fairly alcoholic and that the adding of water was done to lessen that effect and well as for general hydration.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Salil » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:38 pm

Robert B wrote:I've been told that the wine in the Bible days was diluted or somehow less strength than the wine made today. Is that true?

Probably, as they didn't have either Michel Rolland, Manfred Krankl, Chris Ringland or any of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers telling them to leave the grapes on the vines much much longer. ;)

On a serious note Robert - while I'm not Christian, I think wine's something people should be allowed and encouraged to enjoy responsibly (I'm also a bit biased, as I got into wine thanks to my parents taking me along to a couple of wineries in NZ when I was 19 for cellar door tours and tasting trails and it sparked a real interest in it - not to mention changing my approach to drinking, dining and cooking completely). It definitely offers some amazing pleasures and I've also been fortunate to meet a lot of great people through shared interests.
Last edited by Salil on Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:46 pm

David,

Those are good points, and I might add that I was raised in a very good home. My parents had been through the whole drinking ordeal where it got out of hand, and they just decided that it wasn't worth it to them. Since the Bible has some verses that seem to come against wine, they read those and felt that drinking wasn't for the Christian.

Now they are great parents, and I respect their choice. As for myself, since my research in the scriptures recently, I believe that we do have the liberty to enjoy wine as long as we do so responsibility.

I'm all against the hard partying lifestyle and the idea of getting drunk. I'm not looking into wine to solve any of life's stress (grounds for addiction). I'm merely looking forward to enjoying a wine once in a while with my wife over a meal. I asked her today if she would like to have a bottle of wine on our honeymoon, and she said it sounds very romantic!
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:07 am

Salil Benegal wrote:On a serious note Robert - while I'm not Christian, I think wine's something people should be allowed and encouraged to enjoy responsibly (I'm also a bit biased, as I got into wine thanks to my parents taking me along to a couple of wineries in NZ when I was 19 for cellar door tours and tasting trails and it sparked a real interest in it - not to mention changing my approach to drinking, dining and cooking completely). It definitely offers some amazing pleasures and I've also been fortunate to meet a lot of great people through shared interests.


You're absolutely right!

I thought about touring some vineyards with my sweetheart on our honeymoon. My job has taken me into several wineries, and I love the atmosphere, people, etc. It's a completely different atmosphere than an out of control party where everybody is drunk.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby RobertBB » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:09 am

Since when do I reach 5 posts and I become a "Cellar rat"?!? :shock:
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Salil » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:18 am

Not always Robert - I was up in the Finger Lakes recently and saw a few limos going about with small parties being ferried back and forth across various cellar doors to just get hammered. There are places where it's possible to get a much quieter and more relaxed and informative experience - which is infinitely more enjoyable than a sharing a tasting bar space with a bunch of half-drunken yobs.

I personally find it most enjoyable to just open a good bottle with a fine meal and good company. Lots of fun to just sit down with food and conversation and enjoy a good wine evolving with some air, time and something good to pair with.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:51 am

Robert B wrote:I have always believed that wine drinking was something that was "off limits" for the Christian,

As David and others said, it depends very much on the brand of Christian. A couple of sample jokes from just one denomination:

"You know you're Episcopalian if you find one fork in the church kitchen, but seven corkscrews."

"You know you're Episcopalian if you see the rector in a liquor shop ... and go over and say hello to her."
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Victorwine » Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:17 am

Salil Benegal wrote;
Probably, as they didn't have either Michel Rolland, Manfred Krankl, Chris Ringland or any of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers telling them to leave the grapes on the vines much much longer.

This is true, but the ancient vine growers knew that if they “tied off” the cluster of grapes while it still hung on the vine they could force the grapes to “raisin” and produce a “concentrated” wine that was much better suited for “shipping”. As far as diluting the wine with water I agree with David Creightond (and others) but I would also add this was done to “stretch” this important trading commodity.

Salute
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:39 am

Robert B wrote:Since when do I reach 5 posts and I become a "Cellar rat"?!? :shock:


We have some standard titles that come with various numbers of posts. Cellar rat refers to someone who works at a winery in some of the lower level jobs.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Doug Surplus » Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:44 am

Psalm 104:15
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
Doug

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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Dec 07, 2008 11:47 am

Doug Surplus wrote:Psalm 104:15
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.


and maketh me hungry.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby creightond » Sun Dec 07, 2008 12:16 pm

ok, lets continue with robins thread. the baptist concept of heaven? a place you can drink with your friends.
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Jason Hagen » Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:47 pm

Great thread. Robert, thanks for starting it and welcome to the board. I hope that when you enjoy a glass of wine, you'll post your thoughts and impressions here.

I consider myself a devout Christian and have been around this block a few times. It sounds like you are taking an extremely healthy approach.

Cheers,

Jason
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby Jason Hagen » Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:48 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Now getting totally wasted is not a good idea. Just ask Noah.

Yup! :oops:
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Re: Wine in the Bible versus wine today?

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Dec 07, 2008 9:49 pm

Jason Hagen wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Now getting totally wasted is not a good idea. Just ask Noah.

Yup! :oops:


Remeber Jason - there is always forgiveness.
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