Wine as Myth

Why is wine so noble? Is it the brilliant colors? The explosion of flavor? Or the scent of the earth it comes from?

The fermented fruit of the grape has filled the human soul for thousands of years. It was poured in silver vessels for warriors, savored in fine glasses and shared by Christ in the first Chalice.

Christian and Jewish Scriptures celebrate it in ancient ways: “… to bring forth food from the earth and wine to cheer people’s hearts…” (Psalms 104).


But some have doubts about the drink. And yes, we know that drinking more than a glass affects our judgement. Things are said or done that are regretted the next day. The nutritionists tell us that more than one glass is detrimental to our health.

And so the Bible warns us: “Do not aim to be valiant over wine,
for wine has destroyed many.” (Sirach 31:25)

But some people, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Prohibitionists in America, or the Parfaits in France, want to forbid all consumption of wine and alcohols. Sometimes, they even bar music and dance. A dark aura radiates from them and it is not any virtue of temperance that gives us a chill. It is an all or nothing attitude, a hatred of who they see as the “sinner” along with what they see as the “sin”.

The “religious grinches” existed in the time of Jesus too.  They criticized Him for the same reason: He drank wine! “the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'(Matthew 11:19) And Jesus strongly rebuffed them.

Thankfully most of us perceive that a house without pleasures of the taste, the ears, the touch, is a place without art, dinners, and conversation. It’s a place where people can’t open up. It’s a place that is not very… human.

Curiously, an all or nothing tyranny toward wine usually does not apply to other pleasures of life. In places where wine is forbidden, obesity and Polygamy are frequently seen. There is a prohibition against one form of consumption, but no wisdom regarding other consumptions. And then comes the binge drinking, that extreme indulgence on week-end after an absolute dryness of the week.  The “all or nothing” attitude does not seem to work.


Certainly, most people guess that there is a just middle between a life that is all pleasure and a life that is all control. Most people sense that a place exists where joy and decency are found together, a place of harmony where enjoyment and productivity walk hand in hand – just as work and vacation do, laughter and seriousness. It does not require stiffness but does not allow debauchery. That equilibrium slowly appears for many of us as an exciting approach of happiness.

That harmony about wine is find among some cultures. Those that have consumed wine for thousands of years.

We have heard of the Jewish ritual Bar Mitzvahs, where the teenager is offered one glass of wine; Jews have one of the lowest levels of alcoholism in the world. We know that the French are deeply steeped in the tradition of wine; yet they have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

So one summer, I sat at tables in France and observed the way wine was drank …

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