Our copyeditor for What’s Up Yukon recently sent an e-mail to me, where she related that she had stumbled across an alternate definition for the word “Methuselah”. She cited the online dictionary where it said:
1. An extremely old man.
2. An over-sized wine bottle holding approximately six litres.
After biblical figure Methuselah, who was said to have lived 969 years.
I love the connection that wine has to history, and how it is deeply interwoven with, particularly, our Western cultural heritage.
Wine seems to be woven deeply into the tapestry that is part of Judeo-Christian culture, and appears again and again in association with significant gatherings, happy times and miracles.
When the flood receded, and Noah’s ark came to rest, the first thing Noah did was to plant a vineyard and make wine. Though he apparently then had a little too much to drink after bringing in his harvest, I see it as a net positive experience … after all, The Bible does relate that he lived another 350 years after the flood.
In the story of the wedding at Cana, Jesus performs the miracle of converting the water into wine, when they run out at the wedding reception. The lesson for wine enthusiasts comes when, as a result of the incident, the bridegroom is drawn aside and given (in John: 2) a little fatherly advice: “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
I enjoy this piece of wine knowledge as a reminder to always taste and serve the better wines while our palates are fresh, and our minds best able to appreciate a fine wine. There will be time for a lesser wine if we run out of the good stuff.
And of course, there is the Last Supper. Here, wine is a symbol of blood and sacrifice and, in conjunction with bread, evolves into the sacrament of communion for the next 2,000 years.
But wine also looms large as cultural ephemera, or something that was not originally intended to last for a long time, and yet has become embedded in our culture.
I love, for example, the fact that the keys of St. Peter, the symbol of the Pope, are molded onto bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, because that wine comes from the region where the French stashed the Pope, after they kidnapped him, because they wanted less Italian (and no doubt more French) influence over the Catholic Church.
And I love that different-sized Champagne and other bottles have specific names, some culled from the more obscure characters of the Old Testament.
It’s when we get into the “Jeroboams” and “Rehoboams” (named after ancient kings of Israel) that things get fun. I have served Italian red wines at parties in bottles this size, and believe me, it’s a blast! The larger bottles just have this wonderful sense of “plenty”.
In those larger bottles, the wine ages much more slowly, due to the larger volume, and for a large party, it’s great fun to produce one of these. I wish they were more readily available up here, but I suspect you’d have to look in Calgary or Vancouver.
In my next column, I’ll get back to tasting wines, but I hope you enjoyed these musings on wine ephemera.