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snopes
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Comment: I have heard some religious colleagues say that they believe that
Jesus only drank and made "unfermented grape juice" and that any "wine"
referred to in the bible refers to a watered down grape concoction that
wouldn't get anyone drunk.

Is there any proof pointing to this idea? I found a lot of opinion on the
subject, but most of it was from the perspective of more religious people,
saying that in history "wine" was not like it is today. Many claim that
"wine" was usually watered down and therefore people couldn't get drunk on
it like they do today.

I was under the impression that wine in biblical times was pretty much
like wine now. I really just want to know with a little more certainty
that my colleagues, while nice people, are really just saying that Jesus
didn't make or drink wine to justify their own religious beliefs.

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Towknie
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Let's see,

First of all, the Romans were getting pretty drunk during the time of Jesus.

Second, the whole water into wine miracle makes mention of the fact the the wine Jesus made towards the end of the wedding celebration was superior to that served at the beginning. This is thought to be the reverse of conventional wine serving at the time, therefore implying that the atendees would get a little buzzed and not notice the inferior quality of the wine served later on.

Now...How about the old testament?

Lot's daughters got him drunk and slept with him to get pregnant.

Abraham (I think it was him. Could have been another old testament guy) got really drunk in his tent, and his sons covered him up out of respect.

Finally, what preservation methods were in place during biblical times? Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure the grape harvest was the same time of year then as now. Usually in the early fall. OK, so what condition do you suppose the grape juice was in by the time April or May came around? Do you think natural yeast didn't exist, and therefore grape juice made in the fall couldn't have possibly started to ferment?

In conclusion, the whole no alcohol in the bible theory is bunk pushed on us by prohibitionist who's followers will believe anything if there's a claim of biblical reasoning behind it.

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Mistletoey Chloe
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So when Proverbs tells us that "Wine and new wine taketh away the understanding," this is best understood as a caution against over-indulging in grape juice?

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Four Kitties
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quote:
Originally posted by Chloe:
So when Proverbs tells us that "Wine and new wine taketh away the understanding," this is best understood as a caution against over-indulging in grape juice?

Too much grape juice gives you the runs. If you're spending all your time rushing to the bathroom, I can see where that could interfere with maintaining a train of thought long enough to achieve understanding.

OTOH, once you're on the throne, I bet you could get some pondering done.

Four Kitties

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I'mNotDedalus
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quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:
Abraham (I think it was him. Could have been another old testament guy) got really drunk in his tent, and his sons covered him up out of respect.

I think you're referring to Noah:

quote:
20: And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22: And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23: And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24: And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25: And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26: And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.



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lioness
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Unfermented grape juice as we know it is a relatively modern invention, during the Temprance movement. They didn't have the technology to pasteurize the juice to prevent it from fermenting naturally from wild yeasts until the early 19th century.

Throughout human history until the last 100 or so years, beverages such as wine, beer and mead were much safer to drink than water as no harmful bacteria can survive in alcohol. Vinegar is a good example of a bacterial infection getting into a fermenting batch that hasn't been sanitized.

Speaking of vinegar, Romans drank the stuff all the time in addition to wine. In the Crucifixion story, when Christ was given vinegar it was actually to quench his thirst.

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asnakeny
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quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:

Abraham (I think it was him. Could have been another old testament guy) got really drunk in his tent, and his sons covered him up out of respect.

Almost. It's Noah; the relevant passage is Genesis 9:20-24.

ETA: Oops, spanked by I'mNotDedalus.

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Towknie
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quote:
Originally posted by I'mNotDedalus:
I think you're referring to Noah:

quote:
20: And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22: And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23: And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24: And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25: And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26: And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27: God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

[/QB]
Yep, that's it. Funny thing about that passage. It gets conveniently ignored when speaking of alcohol in the bible, but I remember my grandfather citing that exact passage as a justification of slavery. He professed black people to be the sons of Ham.

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I'mNotDedalus
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quote:
Originally posted by Four Kitties:
Too much grape juice gives you the runs.

It couldn't have been grape juice, then. Only someone afflicted with a horrible bout of constipation would coin, "Turn the other cheek."

quote:
Originally posted by asnakeny:
Oops, spanked by I'mNotDedalus.

I tend to do a lot of spankiní after tippin' the grape juice bottle back.

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bufungla
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quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:
Let's see,

First of all, the Romans were getting pretty drunk during the time of Jesus.

True, but irrelevant, since the claim isn't that wine didn't exist, but that the parts of the Bible that speak of wine in a positive light are actually referring to unfermented grape juice.

quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:
Second, the whole water into wine miracle makes mention of the fact the the wine Jesus made towards the end of the wedding celebration was superior to that served at the beginning. This is thought to be the reverse of conventional wine serving at the time, therefore implying that the atendees would get a little buzzed and not notice the inferior quality of the wine served later on.

The standard dodge around this and other favorable wine comments is that there are different words in the ancient Greek texts that were translated into "wine" by the scholars responsible for the King James translation of the Bible. Supposedly the "good" wine that Jesus created was described in Greek by a word that now translates into "grape juice". Of course, these people also adhere to the KJV as being the most accurate translation of the Bible. Also, the vast majority of people (laity, not clergy) offering this argument don't speak a word of Greek, ancient or otherwise (or even know the term for the form of Greek that the New Testament was written in).

quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:
Now...How about the old testament?

Lot's daughters got him drunk and slept with him to get pregnant.

Abraham (I think it was him. Could have been another old testament guy) got really drunk in his tent, and his sons covered him up out of respect.

That would be an example of how getting drunk would be sinful. Heroes in the Bible are often shown sinning.

quote:
Originally posted by Towknie:
Finally, what preservation methods were in place during biblical times? Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure the grape harvest was the same time of year then as now. Usually in the early fall. OK, so what condition do you suppose the grape juice was in by the time April or May came around? Do you think natural yeast didn't exist, and therefore grape juice made in the fall couldn't have possibly started to ferment?

The argument given is that preservation mechanisms existed and could've been used, such as mixing with sulphur or boiling (which could've been done even if they didn't understand why it worked). Of course, the counterargument is that fermentation was often used throughout history to make water potable, a most notable example of which being the Pilgrims' forced landing at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer.

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by bufungla:
The standard dodge around this and other favorable wine comments is that there are different words in the ancient Greek texts that were translated into "wine" by the scholars responsible for the King James translation of the Bible. Supposedly the "good" wine that Jesus created was described in Greek by a word that now translates into "grape juice".

Γλευκος(Strong's 1099), which occurs only in Acts 2:13 and Job 32:19 (LXX). Job 32:19 ("And my belly is as a skin of sweet wine bound up and ready to burst; or as a brazier's labouring bellows.") implies that it is fermenting.

quote:
Originally posted by bufungla:
a most notable example of which being the Pilgrims' forced landing at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer

When the Europeans arrive here, the first thing they tried to do was make beer, but barley and hops didn't fare that well in New England. They tried brewing it from pumpkins, maize, molasses, maple sap, and persimmons. Apples, on the other hand, grew real well in New England, so 10% of farms had cider mills with Americans consuming an estimated 35 gallons a year each. Beer began to overtake cider in as people began to move to the cities (cider was a farm drink) and more Germans began immigrating in the 19th century (Ben Watson, Cider: Hard and Sweet).

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JR
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Boiling does *not* preserve juice, it sterilizes it, and I can't see anyone volunteering to drink juice loaded with sulphur. Yuckkkkkkk.

I pronounce it "codswallop".

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by JR:
Boiling does *not* preserve juice, it sterilizes it,

Supposedly, they boiled the must down to a thick syrup with too much sugar for fermentation to occur at normal rates.

quote:
Originally posted by JR:
I can't see anyone volunteering to drink juice loaded with sulphur.

The Romans (and later peoples) burned a sulfur candle to produces sulfur dioxide and sterilise the barrel. The sulfur leaches out into the must or wine, sulfiting it. Many wines are sulfited to prevent wild yeast and other impurities interfere with the fermentation process.

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lawguy
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regarding the OP, I have heard the story recited therein.

I am what could be accurately described as an evangelical fundamentalist, or better yet, and more accurate- "born again", a "Jesus freak" if you will...if you like labels, which I don't.

Having grown up in that religious tradition (and have chosen it as my own), I never heard the "grape juice as wine" story until I was in a college when a guest speaker espoused that view. I saw it then as pure unadulterated revisionist biblical history then, and I still do.

The Bible has plenty to say about alcoholic beverages and mostly what is has to say is that overindulgence is stupid and can lead to bad things. The Bible urges self control. That said, I do not drink- at all. Why bother?

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lazerus the duck
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I've grown up in the Salvation Army, there a a lot of things I can say about that place (the hipocracy in the church itself not generally in the organisation). But no one there was stupid enough to try and pretend alcohol didn't exist in the bible.

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Doug4.7
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I was told by A Methodist buddy of mine that it was Welch (yes, that one) who "invented" grape juice (non-fermented). He wanted something to use as communion "wine" that was non-alcoholic. I have no evidence to back up that bit of information.

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lawguy
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quote:
Originally posted by Doug4.7:
I was told by A Methodist buddy of mine that it was Welch (yes, that one) who "invented" grape juice (non-fermented). He wanted something to use as communion "wine" that was non-alcoholic. I have no evidence to back up that bit of information.

Well, here's your evidence:

http://www.welchs.com/company/company_history.html

quote:
1869- Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician and dentist by profession, successfully pasteurizes Concord grape juice to produce an "unfermented sacramental wine" for fellow parishioners at his church in Vineland, N.J., where he is communion steward. His achievement marks the beginning of the processed fruit juice industry.



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Doug4.7
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Tanks!

Note that in my church, we use the "real stuff", which freaks out my son's friends when they ask him if he has ever tried "alcohol".

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hoitoider
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There's a pretty good litany of grape products in Numbers 6, the vow of the Nazirite:

'If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite, 3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. (NIV)

When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
3He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. (KJV)

Somehow 'grape juice' in NIV & others is 'liquor of grapes' in KJV. I would think 'liquor of grapes' is brandy but I have no idea.

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JR
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
The Romans (and later peoples) burned a sulfur candle to produces sulfur dioxide and sterilise the barrel. The sulfur leaches out into the must or wine, sulfiting it. Many wines are sulfited to prevent wild yeast and other impurities interfere with the fermentation process.

As a home fermenter, I know exactly what suphiting does.

It sterilizes, and comes out of the must quite quickly. You just said it yourself. If it didn't come out of the must quickly then homebrewers couldn't use it, because it would prevent fermentation by the desired yeast. Also, it would make people ill and taste like "yuck", too (ever gotten a nose-full of Campden tablet?)

As for turning it into a syrup... how come it isn't refered to as "syrup" then. They did make syrups, so they knew what they were on about with the words.

Then there's the entire historical, archeological and linguistic record of our fine fermented friends...

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
Somehow 'grape juice' in NIV & others is 'liquor of grapes' in KJV. I would think 'liquor of grapes' is brandy but I have no idea.

It's anything "aquired/made from grapes" (LXX: οσα κατεργαζεται εκ σταφυλης ου πιεται).

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JR
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Yep, Jason, Middle and archaic modern English, "liquor" = "liquid"

see: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, General Prologue

"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour"

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Jason Threadslayer
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quote:
Originally posted by JR:
Also, it would make people ill and taste like "yuck", too (ever gotten a nose-full of Campden tablet?)

Nah, we use powder and I know better than to taste it or sniff it. [Smile]

quote:
Originally posted by JR:
As for turning it into a syrup... how come it isn't refered to as "syrup" then. They did make syrups, so they knew what they were on about with the words.

Here's the linky-link where the guy quotes ancient writers about boiling must.

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JR
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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
quote:
Originally posted by JR:
Also, it would make people ill and taste like "yuck", too (ever gotten a nose-full of Campden tablet?)

Nah, we use powder and I know better than to taste it or sniff it.
I'll go you one better... I rarely use it at all... but that's becasue most of my stuff is mead. Hoeny is pretty sterile to begin with, the old recipes call for boiling to remove the wax and bee parts.

Anyways, that site is ahowl. Look at how much work and resources go into preserving these "fresh" fruits, and then think about preserving enough of these fruits to provide fresh grape juice for day-to-day use (just about everyone was wandering around with a skin of grape juice).. include spoilage rates in your calculations. Oh, yeah, really practical.

Not only that, but they claim that it was difficult to keep wine from spoiling. Hmm... that explains the massive wine trade....

It's really interesting how often this "grape juice" is mentioned in the Bible, but not other fruit juices. Also the number of times that God punishes people by spoiling their grape juice, or how grape juice cheers God up... I could pull out the verses, but really, there is no way you can read the references to "wine" in the Bible as "grape juice" with a straight face.

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chickencarter108
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In my church the rule of thumb is those in authority or leadership do not drink. Just for the high potential of drunkeness or alcholisim which could seriously affect their ministry and those they minister too. To sit there and dicker about if it was wine or grape juice is well a little looney. In my opnion when the bible says wine it means wine. Grant it they could make syrup, they also served watered down wine and I heard somewhere they would boil the juice down to make a powder. Kinda like Tang I guess. They just added it to water later. Paul told Timothy to drink wine because Timothy had a stomach ailment. To me the religious issue isn't if wine was really grape juice but the potential problems that can come from drinking it. We are human people who make human mistake and wine can just make the mistake a whole lot worse. I do find this one fasicnating do continue.


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JR
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ETA: That "powdered" thing just sounds wrong... at least before the widespread availability of sugar.

Syrups existed, cetrtainly, but arrope ("boiled must") wasn't reconstituted to make a drink by the teetotaller muslims, nore anyone else.

There were several syrups used as drinks, and they are referenced, so it's not like "drinking syrups" was ignored.

Mmmm.. must make some sekanjabin....

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RealityChuck/Boston Charlie
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The key datum for this claim:

The first bottle of unfermented grape juice was invented by Joseph Welch in 1869 (Yes, that Welch's Grape Juice). See http://tinyurl.com/ywlte

In Jesus's time, it was impossible to keep grape juice from fermenting. IIRC, the yeast on the grapes begins fermenting almost as soon as the grapes are crushed. (No corks, either -- they weren't used to seal bottles until the early 19th century). Watering it down would only have lowered the proof.

The argument is just wishful thinking by teetotalers, who seem to forget that things were different a couple of millennia ago.

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bufungla
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quote:
Originally posted by RealityChuck, Glorious Food:

The argument is just wishful thinking by teetotalers, who seem to forget that things were different a couple of millennia ago.

Many of these same people can't even remember that the language was different a few centuries ago.

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Crono
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I grew up in a church that taught that wine in the Bible referred to grape juice. Looking back on it, it almost seems laughable, but that seems to be a rather common belief in the southeastern U.S. Most of the time, I was never provided with an explanation of how they kept the grape juice from fermenting. However, on a couple of occasions, I did hear a reason.

One thing I heard was that the wine was diluted with water. In fact, they said that wine was actually less than 10% grape juice. This actually sounds plausible, but it would mean that the wine was still slightly alcoholic. Also, I haven't heard any historical evidence to back this up. In fact, I have heard instead that water was so contaminated at the time that it was unhealthy to drink, so people would drink wine instead. If water was so bad for you, it seems unlikely that they would mix it into the wine.

There was one solitary source that provided another explanation for the preservation of grape juice. They would put the grape juice in crates and attach them to a chain. The other end of the chain would be secured to the bank of a river, and the crate would be thrown in. The cold water from the river would prevent the wine from fermenting. When they needed to get the wine, they would pull it up by the chain. I have not heard this story from any other source, religious or historical. It seems very unlikely. Is it even possible for cold river water to prevent the grape juice from fermenting?

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Posts: 293 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troodon
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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I don't get the motivation for people in Biblical times to preserve grape juice as-is instead of turning it into wine. It's undeniable that for the past couple of thousand years, people, even highly religious people, have drank wine, enjoyed wine, and purposefully created wine. If the people in Biblical times liked grape-juice so much, why did attitudes shift and why was the technology for preserving grape juice lost?

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Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Chloe:
So when Proverbs tells us that "Wine and new wine taketh away the understanding," this is best understood as a caution against over-indulging in grape juice?

I have it as "The heart of my people has gladly engaged in fornication and wine and strong drink." (Osee 4:11 -- smooth breathing).

quote:
Originally posted by Crono:
One thing I heard was that the wine was diluted with water. In fact, they said that wine was actually less than 10% grape juice. This actually sounds plausible, but it would mean that the wine was still slightly alcoholic. Also, I haven't heard any historical evidence to back this up.

The Greeks called drinking wine without mixing it water "drinking the Scythian way" (I imagine other "barbarians", like the Hebrews, did the same). The Romans adopted the Greek custom and improved on it by adding chilled water, ice, or hot water from a samovar to their wine. I don't have the information on how diluted the wine was.

Sometimes the Romans would add boiled grape must (passum or carenum) to their wine to make it sweeter (probably what is actually meant by "sweet wine". The Romans also used passum and carenum in cooking in the way we use worchestershire sauce.

Most of these practices, however, were probably restricted to the wealthy. Diodorus of Sicily wrote that an amphora of wine could fetch one slave. An amphora of passum probably cost 3 times that. The normal Roman probably drank his wine with just a bit of plain water in it.


quote:
Originally posted by Crono:
In fact, I have heard instead that water was so contaminated at the time that it was unhealthy to drink, so people would drink wine instead. If water was so bad for you, it seems unlikely that they would mix it into the wine.

I have heard that one of the reasons they mixed the wine and water to stretch the wine and make water potable.

quote:
Originally posted by Crono:
The cold water from the river would prevent the wine from fermenting. When they needed to get the wine, they would pull it up by the chain. I have not heard this story from any other source, religious or historical. It seems very unlikely. Is it even possible for cold river water to prevent the grape juice from fermenting?

Never heard that. Wine is often made at a cooler temperature because it ferments slower, which is supposed to produce better flavour (never tried it myself). The optimal temperature for fermenting cider and lager is 7-12°C (45-55° F). Probably make for better wine to ferment it in a river. [Smile]

The Romans may have stored their wine like that -- they did like to chill their wine. It's an improvement on a Greek invention. The Greeks are known to have built double chamber wine pots to chill their wine in the sixth century. The inner chamber would be filled with wine and the outer with snow.

It's also probably cheaper than sending runners up mountains to fetch ice, which the Romans did do.

quote:
Originally posted by Troodon:
I don't get the motivation for people in Biblical times to preserve grape juice as-is instead of turning it into wine.

The Romans like their luxury. An ultra sweet drink like grape must boiled down to 1/3 its original volume would have certainly appealed to them.

quote:
Originally posted by Troodon:
If the people in Biblical times liked grape-juice so much, why did attitudes shift and why was the technology for preserving grape juice lost?

Probably cost and lack of learning due to barbarian invasions. Many of the discoveries the Romans made were lost for many years. The Roman odomotor described by Virtuvius was lost, even beyond the mind of Leonardo da Vinci, until 1981 when Andres Sleeswyk figured out how it worked. Some of them are still lost, like how they bored through rock using heat and vinegar. Vitruvius describes it:

quote:
Even rocks of lava, which neither fire nor iron alone can dissolve, split into pieces and dissolve when heated with fire and then sprinkled with vinegar.


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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Many of the discoveries the Romans made were lost for many years.



The recipe for concrete was lost until the 19th c. or so.

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No man has a right in America to treat any other man "tolerantly" for tolerance is the assumption of superiority. -Wendell L. Willkie

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JR
We Three Blings


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quote:
Originally posted by hoitoider:
quote:
Originally posted by Jason Threadslayer:
Many of the discoveries the Romans made were lost for many years.



The recipe for concrete was lost until the 19th c. or so.

Not true. The concrete "degenerated" because there was no ready availability of Pozzolana outside of Italy, but adequate replacement admixtures were introduced in the 13th century.

Perhaps you are thinking of the particular type of concrete that we call "portland"?

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Semper ubi sub ubi

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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by JR:
Perhaps you are thinking of the particular type of concrete that we call "portland"?

Yeah, I should've specified I was thinking of the use of concrete for something architectural, like the dome of the Pantheon, which certainly couldn't have been done in the Middle Ages. In fact I don't think the span of the Pantheon dome was exceeded (by a concrete dome) until the early 20th c.

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No man has a right in America to treat any other man "tolerantly" for tolerance is the assumption of superiority. -Wendell L. Willkie

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hoitoider
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Kind of related:

King Tut Drank Red Wine, Researcher Says

LONDON - King Tutankhamen was a red wine drinker, according to a researcher who analyzed traces of the vintage found in his tomb. Maria Rosa Guasch-Jane told reporters Wednesday at the British Museum that she made her discovery after inventing a process that gave archaeologists a tool to discover the color of ancient wine.

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No man has a right in America to treat any other man "tolerantly" for tolerance is the assumption of superiority. -Wendell L. Willkie

Posts: 3833 | From: Virginia | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
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