The holidays make me more contemplative about most things. So, no wonder that at this time of year, I tend to think more deeply about the history and ritual attached to the consumption of wine. People drink more around the holidays, that’s no secret. It’s a time to gather and celebrate. Cultural and religious myths, stories and beliefs bubble up to the surface and so many of us tend to feel some sort of pull back to our roots. We also feel more generosity and warmth towards humanity in general. I’ll never complain about that.
As with many great inventions, wine likely came about in an accidental fashion. Wild grapes fermented and ancient people consumed the juice (and survived), if not feeling a little loopy for a time. Who knows how long it took to become intentional—but the earliest evidence of wine production comes from what is now the country of Georgia, in 7000 BCE.
The Greeks and Romans, as well as Egyptians seem to be the first cultures to use wine in ceremony. Dionysus was the Greek God of All Things Wine including ritual madness and ecstasy. He was later embodied as Bacchus, the Roman God who symbolized freedom from oppression.
It is said that the Christian church became a strong supporter of wine after the decline of the Rome and its industrial wine exportation. It would be safe to say that, by then, wine was highly valued—and an interesting article from National Geographic affirms this by pointing out that, “Wine snobbery may be nearly as old as wine itself. Greeks and Romans produced many grades of wine for various social classes.”
This is attributed partly to the fact that wine was more difficult to store (and preserve) than beer and therefore more rare. It was also only available at certain times of year and required pottery for storing.
It’s also interesting to note that other cultures like China, Persia and India have equally ancient connections to wine, but they didn’t embrace it as overtly—even if it appears in their myths and legends. One of my favorites is about a Persian princess, who having fallen out of favor with the king, aimed to kill herself by eating spoiled grapes. Instead, she got drunk, passed out and woke up feeling better about life. She was then able to regain favor of the king and eventually shared her tonic with him, thereby bringing wine to the Persians.
I’ve always liked that wine has such a rich heritage of its own and at this time of year in particular, I like to think of it as a thread connecting us to what came before. It, in some way, makes me feel more deeply intertwined with greater humanity and also the mysteries of life that have carried us to this point in time. I prefer to value it for this virtue, not for the “snobbery” or class separation it has illustrated at times. We are lucky to be able to partake of such a treat to the palate and we are even luckier when we get to share it with others—whom we value simply for being who they are: fellow humans.
The fact that we can celebrate and help support our family with the fruits of this particular trade is not lost on me. I am grateful for it and while it was a happy accident that brought wine to humanity, it’s no accident that gratitude has become part of my own ritual.
May the holidays bring you great joy, warmth, unity and revelry. May you share wine with those whom you love and those whom you will grow to love. May your own rituals bring you greater fulfillment and a stronger connection with those whom you meet. Thank you for your support of Angle 33.
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