AT THE end of the Second World War, the Hungarian Béla Hamvas wrote The Philosophy of Wine, in which he sought to bring atheists to Christ, by using wine to describe God. As he says, “Atheists, it is well known, are lamentably haughty people. They only need to glance at God’s name to throw the book down.” He says that the motto of his book is “After all, two will remain, God and the wine.”
Seventy-five years later, the German theologian Gisela Kreglinger, in The Soul of Wine, places God and wine in a rather different relationship. For her, wine is one of the mightiest works of God’s creation.
The Kreglinger family have been winegrowers in the same village in Franconia for more than 700 years, and the author left her three sisters to run the winery while she studied and then taught theology. This book is part a memoir of her family life, with the tastes and smells of the family kitchen, winery. and garden; part a plea for the demolition of the snobbery and mystique that surrounds wine; but, most importantly, a detailed exposition of the great part that wine can play in our lives as Christians.
The author suggests that the Church, over the centuries, has praised the sense of hearing, so that we can be preached to, at the expense of seeing, touching, and tasting. If we had made better use of these, we would have better perceived the benefits that wine can bring to us. A look at the chapter titles shows just some of these: “To Drink is to Pray”, “Learning About Joy from the Wine-press”, “Convivial Celebrations”, “Wine, Sex and God”, “Wine, Health and Healing”, and “Awakening the Muse”. Wine plays a multitude of parts for the betterment of mankind, but like all of God’s gifts, it must not be abused.
Now based at Birmingham, Alabama, where, no doubt, she is surrounded by a host of Southern Baptists, she does not hesitate to gently reproach them for their wilful crossing to the other side of the road to avoid the pleasures and benefits of wine. She recalls her introduction to wine at her first communion. From the steely white wines of Franconia, she has come to love Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, Oregon, and Central Otago, and the majestic splendour of aged Chianti. This is a journey on which it is well worth keeping her company.
Christopher Fielden’s Full Bodied: The fading memories of a big man in the wine trade was reviewed on 12 March.
The Soul of Wine
Gisela H. Kreglinger
Church Times Bookshop £11.70