Wine symbolism is an “easy” subject for a wine blog: it could keep us busy for the next few years, for symbolism involving wine is plenty and date back millennia, from the dawn of civilization to our days…
However, we will embrace here a less orthodox approach to the symbolism of wine, focusing instead on its lighter nuances...
According to Genesis 9:20-27, Noah, after landing with his ark in Armenia, one of the geographical locations where viticulture is known to have originated, “began to be a master of the soil (a farmer) and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine (he had produced) and was drunken, and then he was (found) uncovered within his tent…”.
While I let you deal with the image of a drunk Noah sleeping naked in his tent in the year 2104 BC, considering that it is said he had lived for 950 years and that he had managed to survive a flood that destroyed the whole humanity with just few family members and all species of animals on board of his ark, perhaps you may understand why he would be a bit stressed and why he would then willingly, if not happily, succumb to the charm of his own made wine.
Where is the symbolism here? Believe me, generations of Bible scholars haven’t been able to explain Noah’s drunkenness episode so far, but it must have been very important if it was duly recorded in “The Book”. Or not. Perhaps it was meant to appear simply what it was: excessive wine consumption with a deliberate aim: drinking it for the sake of it.
In Roman mythology, Bacchus, the God of wine, had enriched wine with the symbols of friendship and love apparently with the purpose of making mankind happy and… horny.
Around 200 BC Bacchanalia were the Roman festivals of Bacchus - or drunken revelries - held in strict secrecy, being in fact a mystery cult during which the selected participants had degrees of freedom, intoxication and ecstasy reached via very liberal consumption of wine.
No matter how you may consider the Bacchanalia, either outdoor rave parties held after dark in remote forest settings or ante litteram examples of sexual liberating meetings, you will always deal with the ubiquitous presence of wine, the healer of sorrow, the indispensable tool to achieve a new awareness of life while trying to disclose Bacchus' secrets of death and rebirth.
THE CANA WEDDING
Of course, important symbolic meanings of wine are also to be found in connection with Jesus Christ and Christianity. Just consider Cana Wedding’s case, when Jesus transformed water into wine: his very first miracle, that is.
The miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11) occurred while Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding in Cana, lower Galilee. Mary told her Son that there was no more wine, hence no more joy to the wedding...
So, on Jesus command, large stone jars were filled up with water, the contents drawn out, presented to the guests and no longer water, it had become wine of the most excellent quality (!). Obviously, this allowed for the feast to continue, and the joyful occasion was not ruined.
Wine is often viewed in the Bible as a symbol of happiness, perhaps in this case also as a symbol of transformation, as in transforming the lives of all who, on that occasion, met Jesus.
Since the dawn of civilization “wine is the most civilized thing in the world” as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, an integral part of human history and culture, ultimately symbolizing a completed and perfected human life.