Monks' work

Monks' work

Karin Leeuwenhoek is a theologian, vinologist and communications scholar. She has ninety Italian olive trees, but mostly loves wine - and philosophising about it. See also her wine blog She writes a column in every issue of WINELIFE Magazine. - TEXT KARIN LEEUWENHOEK 

The connection between wine and religion is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me. Especially in Christianity, wine plays a huge role. And that Christianity in turn draws on Judaism for that, and not in moderation. The fact that the word 'wine' appears more than 200 times in the Old Testament alone says something about the important role wine played in the time and culture in which the Bible, the holy book of Jews and Christians, was written. Jesus Christ knew what to do with it, with the 'grape blood'. He even turned water into wine. And to this day, he is commemorated daily, in churches around the world, with a sip of wine, symbolising his blood.

Who better to leave the making of this sacred wine to than precise monks? Viticulture had made its way into southern Europe before the beginning of our era via the Phoenicians, Etruscans, Greeks and Romans. After the Anno Domini - say for the sake of convenience, à la Van Kooten & De Bie, the wine year zero - the Gauls or Celts were of great importance to European viticulture and trade, in addition to the Romans. From the early Middle Ages, Christianity advanced in Europe and in the 6th century Saint Benedict of Nursia wrote his monastic rule for monks. The church structurally needed wine for the increasingly frequent masses. But the sum of all those pious sips did not even amount to much as quantity; it was mainly in the overall consumption of wine. Wine was popular and the wine trade lucrative.

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