Would you believe there are 231 references to wine in the Bible?
Wine is an element of the Judeo-Christian concept of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, during Mass when wine is offered as representing the blood of Christ, or the presence of Jesus on Earth, so the symbolism of wine is that of a joyful drink. Holy Communion is a re-enactment of the Last Supper, an event commemorated every Easter when Christians celebrate the end of Lent, a traditional time for fasting or giving something up. (From Karen MacNeil of WineSpeed)
Wine is the most common alcoholic beverage mentioned in biblical literature, where it is a source of symbolism, and was an important part of daily life in biblical times.
In the Middle Ages, the greatest and most innovative winemakers of the day were monastic orders. The Cistercians and Benedictines were particularly apt winemakers, and they are said to have actually tasted the earth to discover how the soil changed from place to place.
The Phoenicians spread wine around the Mediterranean in the tenth century BCE, introducing the drink to the ancient Greeks, who in turn inspired the Romans to become wine fanatics and grow grapes across their empire. The Greeks and Romans took their wine seriously, dedicating gods to their favourite fermented fruit juice. Dionysus was known as the god of the grape-harvest to the Greeks, while Bacchus was the deity of choice for Roman oenophiles.
It has only been 140 years since the founding of the University of California at Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. On April 15, 1880, with phylloxera ravaging its vineyards, the California Legislature mandated the University of California to establish a program to provide instruction and research to eradicate the vine-killing insect. Other discoveries by the esteemed faculty have included DNA mapping of grape genomes to identify their origins. Among today’s research are studies focused on sustainability and flavor analysis. Hail to UCD!
Malbec (MAL-beck) is one of the five grapes that can be legally blended to make red Bordeaux. Half a world away, however, malbec is a star. In the mid-nineteenth century, malbec was brought from Bordeaux to Argentina where it is now the leading red grape for fine varietal red wines.
Not all red wines are made the same. Some wines have significantly higher levels of “good for you stuff” than others (condensed tannins–see above). For example, Cabernet Sauvignon has more condensed tannins than Pinot Noir, but both wines have much less than Tannat, Petite Sirah, or Sagrantino. While it’s rather difficult to determine which wines are best, here are some clues:
- Dry red wines are better than sweet wines.
- Red wines with lower alcohol (preferably below 13% ABV) are better than high alcohol wines
- Red wines with higher tannin (those that are more astringent) are better than low tannin wines.
Did you know? Because the color comes from grape skins (and not the juice), it’s possible to make a white wine out of red grapes. The wine is made like white wine, without contact with the grape skins. This happens more than you might imagine. For example, a Blanc de Noirs Champagne is a white sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (red) grapes.
As they say in Italy, “Saluti!” The Italians produce more wine than any other country on earth — in excess of 54.8 million hectoliters (1.45 billion gallons) a year, according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine. The country’s Mediterranean brethren – France and Spain – aren’t far behind, at 49.1 mhl (1.3 billion gallons) and 44.4 mhl (1.17 billion gallons), respectively. Thanks to the Mediterranean’s ideal climate for vineyards, these three countries are the largest exporters in the world, comprising more than half of the global market. After world production dipped to a historic low in 2017, vino lovers can breathe a sigh of relief: 2018 was a record-setting year with booms in New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and the U.S. too.
Whatever your religion, I encourage you to enjoy in moderation. Remember, grape growers and wine makers are farmers too, I think.