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Wine; Wine Press

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wı̄n , wı̄n´pres :

I. Terms.

1. Wine:

(1) ( יין , yayin ), apparently from a non-Tsere root allied to Greek ( w ) oı́nos , Latin vinum , etc. This is the usual word for "wine" and is found 141 times in Massoretic Text. (2) חמר , ḥemer , perhaps "foaming" ( Deuteronomy 32:14 and Massoretic Text Isaiah 27:2 (but see the English Revised Version margin)); Aramaic חמר , ḥămar (Ezra 6:9; Ezra 7:22; Daniel 5:1 , Daniel 5:2 , Daniel 5:4 , Daniel 5:23 ). (3) תּירושׁ , tı̄rōsh . Properly this is the fresh grape juice (called also משׁרה , mishreh , Numbers 6:3 ), even when still in the grape (Isaiah 65:8 ). But unfermented grape juice is a very difficult thing to keep without the aid of modern antiseptic precautions, and its preservation in the warm and not over-cleanly conditions of ancient Palestine was impossible. Consequently, tı̄rōsh came to mean wine that was not fully aged (although with full intoxicating properties (Judges 9:13; Hosea 4:11; compare Acts 11:13 )) or wine when considered specifically as the product of grapes (Deuteronomy 12:17; Deuteronomy 18:4 , etc.). The Septuagint always (except Isaiah 65:8; Hosea 4:11 ) translates by oinos and the Targums by ḥămar . the King James Version has "wine" 26 times, "new wine" 11 times, "sweet wine" in Micah 6:15; the Revised Version (British and American) "vintage" in Numbers 18:12; Micah 6:15 (with the same change in Nehemiah 10:37 , Nehemiah 10:39 the Revised Version margin; Isaiah 62:8 the English Revised Version margin). Otherwise the English Revised Version has left the King James Version unchanged, while the American Standard Revised Version uses "new wine" throughout. (4) Two apparently poetic words are עסיס , ‛āṣı̄ṣ (the Revised Version (British and American) "sweet wine," Isaiah 49:26; Amos 9:13; Joel 1:5; Joel 3:18 , "juice"; Song of Solomon 8:2 ), and סבא , ṣōbhe' ("wine," Isaiah 1:22; "drink," Hosea 4:18 (margin "carouse"); Nahum 1:10 ). (5) For spiced wine three words occur: מסך , meṣekh , Psalm 75:8 (English Versions of the Bible "mixture"); ממסך , mimṣākh , Proverbs 23:30 ("mixed wine"); Isaiah 65:11 (the Revised Version (British and American) "mingled wine"); מזג , mezegh , Song of Solomon 7:2 (the Revised Version (British and American) "mingled wine"); compare also הרקח יין , yayin hāreḳaḥ , Song of Solomon 8:2 ("spiced wine"). (6) ממתקּים , mamethaḳḳı̄m , literally, "sweet," Nehemiah 8:10 .

(7) שׁכר , shēkhār (22 times), translated "strong drink" in English Versions of the Bible. Shēkhār appears to mean "intoxicating drink" of any sort and in Numbers 28:7 is certainly simply "wine" (compare also its use in parallelism to "wine" in Isaiah 5:11 , Isaiah 5:22 , etc.). In certain passages (Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:3; 1 Samuel 1:15 , etc.), however, it is distinguished from "wine," and the meaning is not quite certain. But it would seem to mean "drink not made from grapes." Of such only pomegranate wine is named in the Bible (Song of Solomon 8:2 ), but a variety of such preparations (made from apples, quinces, dates, barley, etc.) were known to the ancients and must have been used in Palestine also. The translation "strong drink" is unfortunate, for it suggests "distilled liquor," "brandy," which is hardly in point. See DRINK , STRONG .

(8) In the Apocrypha and New Testament "wine" represents οἶνος , oı́nos , with certain compounds, except in Acts 2:13 , where the Greek is γλεῦκος , gleúkos , "sweet," English Versions of the Bible "new wine."


2. Wine Press:

(1) Properly speaking, the actual wine press was called גּת , gath ( Judges 6:11 , etc.), and the receiving vat ("fat") יקב , yeḳebh (Numbers 18:27 , etc.), but the names were interchangeable to some degree (Isaiah 16:10; Job 24:11; compare Isaiah 5:2 , the Revised Version (British and American) text and margin) and either could be used for the whole apparatus (see GATH and compare Judges 7:25; Zechariah 14:10 ). In Isaiah 63:3 the Hebrew has פּוּרה , pūrāh , "wine trough" a word found also in Haggai 2:16 where it seems to be a gloss (so, apparently, the American Standard Revised Version).

(2) In the Apocrypha (Sirach 33:16 ) and in the New Testament 21:33; Revelation 14:19 , Revelation 14:20 ( twice ); Revelation 19:15 ) "winepress" is ληνός , lēnós ; in Mark 12:1 ὑπολήιον , hupolḗnion , by which only the receiving vat seems to be meant (the Revised Version (British and American) a pit for a winepress").

II. Wine-Making.

1. The Vintage:

For the care of the vine, its distribution, different varieties, etc., see VINE . The ripening of the grapes took place as early as June in the Jordan valley, but on the coast not until August, while in the hills it was delayed until September. In whatever month, however, the coming of the vintage was the signal for the villagers to leave their homes in a body and to encamp in booths erected in the vineyards, so that the work might be carried on without interruption. See TABERNACLES , FEAST OF . It was the great holiday season of the year and the joy of the vintage was proverbial (Isaiah 16:10; Jeremiah 25:30; Jeremiah 48:33; compare Judges 9:27 ), and fragments of vintage songs seem to be preserved in Isaiah 27:2; Isaiah 65:8 . The grapes were gathered usually by cutting off the clusters (see SICKLE ), and were carried to the press in baskets.

2. Wine Presses:

Many of the ancient wine presses remain to the present day. Ordinarily they consisted of two rectangular or circular excavations, hewn (Isaiah 5:2 ) in the solid rock to a depth of 2 or 3 feet. Where possible one was always higher than the other and they were connected by a pipe or channel. Their size, of course, varied greatly, but the upper vat was always wider and shallower than the lower and was the press proper, into which the grapes were thrown, to be crushed by the feet of the treaders (Isaiah 63:1-3 , etc.). The juice flowed down through the pipe into the lower vat, from which it was removed into jars (Haggai 2:16 ) or where it was allowed to remain during the first fermentation.

Many modifications of this form of the press are found. Where there was no rock close to the surface, the vats were dug in the earth and lined with stonework or cement, covered with pitch. Or the pressvat might be built up out of any material (wood was much used in Egypt), and from it the juice could be conducted into a sunken receptacle or into jars. Not infrequently a third (rarely a fourth) vat might be added between the other two, in which a partial settling and straining could take place. Wooden beams are often used either to finish the pressing or to perform the whole operation, and holes into which the ends of these beams fitted can still be seen. A square of wood attached to the beam bore down on the pile of grapes, while the free end of the beam was heavily weighted. In the simpler presses the final result was obtained by piling stones on the mass that remained after the treaders had finished their work.

3. Grading:

It is a general principle of wine-making (compare that "the less the pressure the better the product"; therefore the liquid that flowed at the beginning of the process, especially that produced by the mere weight of the grapes themselves when piled in heaps, was carefully kept separate from that which was obtained only under heavy pressure. A still lower grade was made by adding water to the final refuse the mixture to ferment. Possibly this last concoction is sometimes meant by the word "vinegar" ( ḥōmec ).

4. Fermentation:

In the climate of Palestine fermentation begins almost immediately, frequently on the same day for juice pressed out in the morning, but never later than the next day. At first a slight foam appears on the surface of the liquid, and from that moment, according to Jewish tradition, it is liable to the wine-tithe ( Ma‛ăsērōth 1 7). The action rapidly becomes more violent, and while it is in progress the liquid must be kept in jars or in a vat, for it would burst even the newest and strongest of wine-skins ( Job 32:19 ). Within about a week this violent fermentation subsides, and the wine is transferred to other jars or strong wine-skins (Mark 2:22 and parallel's), in which it undergoes the secondary fermentation. At the bottom of the receptacles collects the heavier matter or "lees" ( שׁמרים , shemārı̄m , Psalm 75:8 ("dregs"); Jeremiah 48:11; Zephaniah 1:12 in Isaiah 25:6 the word is used for the wine as well), from which the "wines on the lees" gather strength and flavor.

At the end of 40 days it was regarded as properly "wine" and could be offered as a drink offering ( ‛Ēdhuyyōth 6 1). The practice after this point seems to have varied, no doubt depending on the sort of wine that was being made. Certain kinds were left undisturbed to age "on their lees" and were thought to be all the better for so doing, but before they were used it was necessary to strain them very carefully. So Isaiah 25:6 , 'A feast of wine aged on the lees, thoroughly strained.' But usually leaving the wine in the fermentation vessels interfered with its improvement or caused it to degenerate. So at the end of 40 days it was drawn off into other jars (for storage, 1 Chronicles 27:27 , etc.) or wine-skins (for transportation, Joshua 9:4 , etc.). So Jeremiah 48:11 : 'Moab has been undisturbed from his youth, and he has rested on his lees and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel.... Therefore his flavor remains unchanged (or "becomes insipid") and his scent is unimproved (or "lacks freshness")'; compare Zephaniah 1:12 .

5. Storage:

Jars were tightly sealed with caps covered with pitch. The very close sealing needed to preserve sparkling wines, however, was unknown to the Hebrews, and in consequence (and for other reasons) such wines were not used. Hence, in Psalm 75:8 , "The wine foameth," the allusion must be to very new wine whose fermentation had not yet subsided, if indeed, the translation is not wrong (the Revised Version margin "The wine is red"). The superiority of old wine to new was acknowledged by the Hebrews, in common with the rest of the world (Sirach 9:10; Luke 5:39 ), but in the wines of Palestine acetous fermentation, changing the wine into vinegar, was likely to occur at any time. Three years was about the longest time for which such wines could be kept, and "old wine" meant only wines that had been, stored for a year or more ( Bab. Bath . 6 3). See also CRAFTS , II, 19.

III. Use of Wine.

1. Mixed Wine:

In Old Testament times wine was drunk undiluted, and wine mixed with water was thought to be ruined (Isaiah 1:22 ). The "mixed" or "mingled wines" (see I, 1, (5), above) were prepared with aromatic herbs of various sorts and some of these compounds, used throughout the ancient world, were highly intoxicating (Isaiah 5:22 ). Wine mixed with myrrh was stupefying and an anesthetic (Mark 15:23 ). At a later period, however, the Greek use of diluted wines had attained such sway that the writer of 2 Maccabees speaks (15:39) of undiluted wine as "distasteful" ( polémion ). This dilution is so normal in the following centuries that the Mishna can take it for granted and, indeed, R. Eliezer even forbade saying the table-blessing over undiluted wine (Berākhōth 7 5). The proportion of water was large, only one-third or one-fourth of the total mixture being wine (Niddāh 2 7; Peṣāḥı̄m 108b).


The wine of the Last Supper, accordingly, may be described in modern terms as a sweet, red, fermented wine, rather highly diluted. As it was no doubt the ordinary wine of commerce, there is no reason to suppose that it was particularly "pure."

2. Wine-Drinkinig:

Throughout the Old Testament, wine is regarded as a necessity of life and in no way as a mere luxury. It was a necessary part of even the simplest meal (Genesis 14:18; Judges 19:19; 1 Samuel 16:20; Isaiah 55:1 , etc.), was an indispensable provision for a fortress (2 Chronicles 11:11 ), and was drunk by all classes and all ages, even by the very young (Lamentations 2:12; Zechariah 9:17 ). "Wine" is bracketed with "grain" as a basic staple (Genesis 27:28 , etc.), and the failure of the winecrop or its destruction by foreigners was a terrible calamity (Deuteronomy 28:30 , Deuteronomy 28:39; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 65:21; Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13 , etc.). On the other hand, abundance of wine was a special token of God's blessing (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:13; Amos 9:14 , etc.), and extraordinary abundance would be a token of the Messianic age (Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 9:17 ). A moderate "gladdening of the heart" through wine was not looked upon as at all reprehensible (2 Samuel 13:28; Esther 1:10; Psalm 104:15; Ecclesiastes 9:7; Ecclesiastes 10:19; Zechariah 9:15; Zechariah 10:7 ), and while Judges 9:13 represented a mere verbal remnant of a long-obsolete concept, yet the idea contained in the verse was not thought shocking. "Drink offerings," indeed, were of course a part of the prescribed ritual ( Leviticus 23:13 , etc.; see SACRIFICE ), and a store of wine was kept in the temple (tabernacle) to insure their performance (1 Chronicles 9:29 ). Even in later and much more moderate times, Sirach writes the laudation of wine in 31:27, and the writer of 2 Maccabees (see above) objects as strongly to pure water as he does to pure wine. Christ adapted Himself to Jewish customs (Matthew 11:19 parallel Luke 7:34; Luke 22:18 ), and exegetes usually suppose that the celebrated verse 1 Timothy 5:23 is meant as a safeguard against ascetic (Gnostic?) dualism, as well as to give medical advice.

On the temporal conditioning of the Biblical customs, the uncompromising opposition of the Bible to excess, and the non-applicability of the ancient attitude to the totally different modern conditions, see DRUNKENNESS .

The figurative uses of wine are very numerous, but are for the most part fairly obvious. Those offering difficulty have been discussed in the course of the article. For wine in its commercial aspect see TRADE .

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Wine; Wine Press'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​w/wine-wine-press.html. 1915.