[FOUNTAIN]Celebrating the virtues of wineThe ancient people of Egypt and the Middle East began growing grapevines around 6,000 B.C. as they adopted a settled lifestyle. They squeezed the grapes to drink the juice, and wine was a natural product of the fermented fruit. The first man recorded in literature to have enjoyed and gotten drunk on wine was Noah, the biblical leader of the Ark. After the Great Flood, Noah planted grapevines, made wine, got drunk and fell asleep naked. Historians assume that the Great Flood took place around 4,000 B.C. According to Mesopotamian records, trade began in the Mediterranean region around 3,000 B.C., and wine was introduced to Greece across the Aegean Sea and spread all over Europe via the Roman Empire.
In ancient society, wine was considered a spiritual beverage. It made people feel the existence of God, and at the same time its red color symbolized blood and life. When men got drunk, it was not shameful. Naturally, a festival for Dionysus, the god of wine, was wild and lascivious. On the other hand, Romans perceived drinking by women as indicating infidelity and banned the practice. Wine was also a sacred offering to God. The ancients dedicated wine on altars, and every festival began with a glass of wine.
Christianity made the biggest contribution to the development of wine. Born in a wine-producing region, Jesus said he was the “true vine,” and had his disciples drink wine at the Last Supper, calling the wine his blood. French monks in the medieval period planted grapevines in the monasteries and endeavored for centuries to make the very best wine to use during Mass. The French are considered to produce the finest wines today.
Last summer’s abnormally high temperatures and low rainfall in France reduced the output of Beaujolais Nouveau, but this year’s bottles reportedly have excellent flavor and bouquet. Critics have pointed that the wine’s popularity owes more to the hype created by merchants and the media than its true quality. But imports of the young wine have grown rapidly in recent years, and Korea has joined the worldwide race to bring in cases of Beaujolais Nouveau. The wine is a foreign one, but I hope Koreans drink it in the Korean way of drinking. The 17th-century poet Yun Seon-do wrote, “Drinking is corrupted if it lacks morality, and dancing is confusing when it lacks civility. So all will be well if we keep morality and civility.”
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.