What if a Wine Critic Could Review Jesus’ Wine from the Wedding in Cana?

I don’t know where I got this idea, but it seemed too much fun to pass up. Here follows a review of the wine from Jesus’ first miracle by a fictitious wine reviewer (no I did not go to Hawaii for my honeymoon, and yes my father is alive and well.)


Red Wine (unknown type), From Palestine, around 30 CE

A Review

You have heard the story. And now I have tasted the wine.

Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, got the bridegroom in trouble. You see you were supposed to serve the best wine first and when they ran out, and under his mother’s direction, Jesus took six jars of water and turned them into wine so good that the bridegroom was scolded for saving the best for last. Was it really that good?

In reviewing such an historic wine, I feel strongly compelled to show my hand a bit as a wine reviewer, to pull back the curtain. While we reviewers all have different tastes and preferences, what we value above all is that perfect mixture of complexity and cohesion of flavors. Another way I’ve described this ideal to friends is “decipherable complexity.” We want our wine to be complex, but no so complex that we cannot pinpoint the flavors.

By those standards, this wine is a bit of a disaster. In place of decipherable complexity I am overwhelmed, even in just the nose, by a bewildering complexity. Whatever palette I’ve developed after reviewing over 3,000 wines is feels somewhat useless here. I want to describe the flavors in easy ways for you to understand: black cherry, nutmeg, almond essence… what have you.

But when it comes to this miraculous wine. I am at a loss. At first taste the bewildering complexity is exhilarating, as though you’re on the climb of an ancient roller coaster that you’ve never ridden before and with each *clink-clank* you’re imagining the loops and turns ahead. But then as you cross the apex and dive into the taste, this wine frustrates because I simply cannot put my finger on what I am tasting. It assaults my palette unlike anything I’ve had before. It offends my developed sensibilities.

I feel like a classical art critic, accustomed to Raphael and Rembrandt, trying to review Picasso’s Guernica, or like a colorblind reviewer trying to describe the beauty of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The vocabulary of this wine is simply written in a different language. And no matter how much I study its diction and sentence structure, it is always one step ahead of me.


Picasso’s Guernica, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night, to a person with color blindness.

So you will have to indulge me as I try to describe some of its flavors.

At one moment one of the notes smelled just like my grandmother’s closet. It was like a small hall that led from her bedroom to her bathroom. It was lined on either side with flowing floral dresses, less-than-elegant leather working shoes, and sheer scarves and shawls that would move with the slightest breeze and seemed to reach out for me as I passed. She kept the tiny window open in any season except the coldest part of winter and so the aroma of pollen and freshly cut hay would come and go.

At another moment the texture took me to the couch in the funeral parlor during the visitation for my father. I was supposed to stand and shake everyone’s hand and be cordial, but I just couldn’t. So I parked myself on their couch, an out-of-fashion but sturdy piece, and fiddled my anxiety away by rubbing my fingers back and forth on the arm. Rather than a mere print, it had actual clothe grooves, made to look something like intertwined ropes.

And finally, in the taste I was transported to a cup of coffee I enjoyed standing on the balcony of our bed and breakfast near Huelo Maui during our Honeymoon. It was probably just a normal cup of coffee. But it was my first cup of coffee as a husband and sipping it while smelling the salty breeze made it taste like something completely new. It was an adventure asking to be had, not in any way disguising its struggles and pitfalls. But as I stood there drinking that cup of coffee I knew that if I didn’t embark on this journey with my wife, neither of us would ever feel like we had really lived.

I hesitate even to attempt to articulate these flavors, not because I’m revealing too much about myself, but because much like quantum physics, the act of trying to document this wine’s exact location on a taste profile defeats the purpose. Even now as I write this, I’m thinking: “I remember those notes, but that’s not even close to describing the taste.”

If you are interested in a traditional wine, I could not discourage you enough from tasting this bottle. You will be forever ruined. But if you can think back to your first drink ever, perhaps at a romantic dinner, perhaps sneaking into your friend’s attic where she had hid some beanbag chairs and the last quarter of her dad’s bottle, and remember the exhilaration that came from tasting the unknown, then perhaps this wine would be for you.

Let us imagine that there is enough from this bottle for everyone. It demands a decision from you. Do you favor the known quantity that is sweet and satisfying and never gets old? Or do you heed the call to jump blissfully ignorant into a red sea of mystery, in which you will never know the full story, but you will know that you are known and that there is always more waiting for you ahead?



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