Ancient wine aging, was RE: Cana and apparent age

Berger, Dan (
Thu, 30 Apr 1998 15:17:49 -0400

On Thursday, April 30, 1998 2:35 PM, Bill Hamilton
[] wrote:
<quotes snipped> are we to apply the strict definition
> of wine when we read "wine" in the Cana account? Or are we allowed some
> license in the interpretation? Some Protestant churches which use grape
> juice instead of wine nevertheless tend to call the contents of the cup
> "wine". Furthermore, what do we know about winemaking practices and
> terminology in Jesus' time? (I'm not saying no one knows, but I don't)
> Perhaps grape juice that had not yet completed the fermentation process was
> loosely referred to as "wine". My point (in other posts on the subject as
> well as this one) is that we don't know enough to be too persnickety in our
> interpretation.

So far as I know (my information is from Tannahill's *Food in History*) yer
average ancient wine was aged for all of about a week (maybe a month) before
consumption. The better wines were aged longer, but since they were stored in
porous containers (goatskins or pottery jars) they were usually pretty thick
(evaporation) if they had been aged anything like a typical time for one of
today's decent table wines. A 20-year-old wine had to be watered to be potable
at all.

However, grape juice, like any other liquid with sugar in it, starts to ferment
*immediately* and will probably be mildly intoxicating after one or two days of
room-temperature storage. Modern non-alcoholic (pasteurized) grape juice --
stored in the refrigerator or freezer! -- is the product of the 19th-Century
American "temperance" movement: tee-totaling Protestants, of whom Mr. Welch
was one, wanted a non-alcoholic communion beverage.

Daniel J. Berger | PH: (419) 358-3379
Associate Professor of Chemistry | FAX:(419) 358-3323
Bluffton College |
Bluffton OH 45817-1196 |