Look Past the Label

How Learning About Wine Can Deepen Your Spiritual Life

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The other day I savored a glass of wine described as having “panache,” just one of many wine words that confound me. At times, I wonder if vintners scour a thesaurus when designing wine labels, or if I just don’t understand and appreciate a good wine.

That’s why I’m thrilled to be organizing Denver Institute’s August 20th event, “The Spirituality of Wine” with theologian and wine expert Gisela Kreglinger.

In her book of the same name, Dr. Kreglinger draws from her experience as the daughter of a German winemaker and her knowledge of Scripture to make a compelling case for the significant role wine plays in the Christian life.  She will provide a theological framework explaining wine’s significance and lead us in wine-tasting as a spiritual practice.

If you’ve contemplated joining us at the event, let me offer four ways learning about wine can deepen your spiritual life:

Wine is one of many substances that allow us to experience God more fully through our senses.

Just as a juicy summer peach or a sunny snow day at Winter Park enchants our senses, savoring a glass of wine invites us to experience the beauty of God’s creation with our whole being.

In modern life, it’s all too easy to separate our daily experience into sacred and secular compartments. Our experience of God is limited to times of prayer or Bible study, yet Scripture describes faith as a sensory experience:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.” – Psalm 34:8 

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” – Psalm 119:103

“Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 5:2

Learning to savor wine invites us to experience God’s good gifts with our whole selves: “If we understand our spiritual lives as fully embodied and physical, can the senses of taste and smell not also become vessels for prayer and contemplation?” Kreglinger asks.

“As Christians, we no longer look at wine as secular matter but learn to receive it as a gift from God. Wine calls us to a life of gratitude. To be grateful means to pay attention to what God has given us, to give thanks for it, to share it, and to appreciate it together. In this way savoring wine can become a prayer.”1 

Wine deepens our connection to the created world.

One of the challenges of modern life is to keep sight of God’s beauty in the midst of mass produced foods and flavors, rapidly accelerating schedules, and the increasing urbanization of our communities. Yet, throughout Scripture, God’s people are called to cultivate and enjoy creation.

I think that’s why so many of us find joy tending backyard gardens or selecting produce at a farmer’s market — it connects us to the created world in ways that office jobs and children’s carpools cannot.

Understanding how the physical environment — or as wine lovers like to say, the terroir — affects wine’s flavor invites us to savor the nuances of the natural world.

As Dr. Kreglinger elaborates:

“The theme of wine opens up an understanding of the Christian life that sees human life in a profound relationship with God and in deep fellowship with God’s creation…Rather than understanding creation and salvation as to separate categories, the biblical narrative reveals that the two are profoundly intertwined. God’s redemption encompasses all of creation, including the land and its fruitfulness. The Christian life calls us to recover our God-given place in this great community of creation by learning to treasure God’s gifts and enjoy them faithfully and responsibly.”2

Scripture is filled with references to wine, wine-making, and vineyards. Learning about the craft of wine-making can deepen our understanding of the Word.

Think about it…

Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine — and not just any wine — good wine fit for a wedding reception (John 2).

Jesus often used agricultural metaphors in his teaching. He refers to himself as the vine and his followers as his branches (John 15). He addresses the winemaking process in the parable of the wineskins (Luke 5).

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

There are parallels between the wine-making process and salvation history in Scripture; the crushing and pressing of grapes is a vivid symbol for the redemptive nature of God’s wrath, laid on Christ during his death on the cross.

Many churches consider the Lord’s Supper — a meal centered around wine and bread — a central sacrament of their religious practice. As John Calvin observed, “By wine the hearts of men are gladdened, their strength recruited, and the whole man strengthened, so by the blood of our Lord the same benefits are received by our souls.”3

Simply put, to fully understand Scripture, we must understand the wine and the wine-making process. 

A thoughtful enjoyment of wine complements a theology of joy and feasting.

Many of Scripture’s most memorable scenes revolve around epic meals — from the Psalmist who marvels that “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” (Psalm 23) to the Prodigal Son, who is welcomed home with a joyous celebration (Luke 15) — the table holds a prominent place in the practice of our faith. Revelation 19 describes the culmination of God’s redemptive work at a marriage supper of the Lamb — a feast if there ever was one.

Thoughtful feasting, complete with well-crafted wine, can be a deeply spiritual experience.

“[Feasting] is a deeply spiritual practice, and we must rediscover it as such. Joyful feasting becomes a place where we remember God and his gifts to us. Fostering a posture of gratitude through thanksgiving and rejoining opens up our lives to God’s presence and his abundant generosity.”4 

Join us August 20th to broaden your mind, deepen your faith, and enchant your palate. Dr. Kreglinger will open the evening with a lecture on the spirituality of wine followed by a guided tasting of five wines as spiritual practice.

Tickets are limited so reserve your place at the table today >> 

 


1 Kreglinger, 5 & 110

2 Kreglinger, 35

3 Kreglinger, 57

Kreglinger, 87