Sunday, January 20, 2013

Just how good was the wine at Cana?

File:Cana-01.jpgToday Catholics heard a gospel reading that is surely one of my favorites - the tale of the Wedding at Cana.  This gem of a story makes me happy for a number of reasons.  First of all, the New Testament doesn't have many parties, but this is one of them.  Secondly, it was Jesus' first miracle - that gives our favorite beverage tremendous klout from a religious point of view. Thirdly, I love that Mary plays the role of nagging mom and Jesus is the seemingly uncooperative son.  After she nudges him to solve the problem of the wedding party running out of wine, he shrugs her off, "Woman, how does your concern affect me?" And yet, just like many sons, he ends up doing what mom wants anyway, asking servants to fill up jugs with water and then, when they are presented to the wait staff, they have become wine.

But not just any wine.  The headwaiter remarks with surprise that usually the best wine is served early at the event, but they have saved the best wine for last.  I love that normally the degree of how inebriated the guests are is inverse to the quality of what's being served.  But who hasn't experienced the phenomenon of wine, beer, cocktails, or anything tasting much better after the first few drinks have been consumed?  I'm sure it's a technique still used by hosts today, although I like to drink "the good stuff" all night if I can afford to.

I like to fantasize about what the wine at the Wedding at Cana tasted like.  I like to think it was more elegant than what was being made in the surrounding vineyards at the time.  Would it have the finesse of a Burgundy from the best years, perhaps a preview of Domaine Romanee Conti?  Perhaps the masterful power of a first Growth Bordeaux from a legendary vintage?  Once I had a 1973 Riesling that still was as fresh and youthful as a new wine - my dinner companion declared, "This wine just makes me happy!" It could have been a white, after all.

In the States, our puritanical zeal for a "drug-free America" often lands any alcoholic beverage in the same heap as the hardest drugs. But I like to remind anyone who thinks this way that wine is mentioned hundreds of times in the bible, and never more fondly than at the Wedding at Cana.

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