Australian Lutherans: Wine and Confession

Hill_of_grace_wineyardIn the late 1830s, the British colonial government of Australia had a problem.  There was a continual stream of settlers–the ex-convicts who had served their time in the prison colonies–but they were nearly all from the city.  What was needed for Australia to become a self-sustaining colony was farmers.  Colonial officers heard of a group of skilled farmers from Germany who wanted to emigrate due to religious persecution.  These were “old Lutherans” who refused to go along with the liberal theology of the state church in Prussia and other principalities.  (Others went to North America where they founded the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.)

The colonial government offered these Lutheran immigrants good farmland along the Murray River in South Australia, in the country surrounding Adelaide, including the Barossa Valley.  These farmers soon realized that the soil and climate were just right for growing grapes.  Thus began the Australian wine industry.

Others too began making wine, and today big corporations are sending rivers of Australian wine throughout the world. But the best wines are made by small, family-run wineries, many of which are still made by Lutherans who go to churches that are sometimes built right next to the vineyards.  (As in this photo of Zion Lutheran Church next to the Hill of Grace vineyards.)  There are some 50 wineries in the Barossa Valley in an area of just 352 square miles, as well as some 550 vineyards that supply grapes for 170 other Australian wine companies.  Nearly all of the wineries are open to visitors and offer free samples.  (Check out this page on Lutheran winemakers and see some of the wines they make.  This organization, started by TV wine expert Tyson Seltzer, himself an active Lutheran, supports Lutheran congregations.) [Read more…]

The good wine

Last Sunday was the day of Epiphany that marks Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, turning water into wine.  I don’t understand how anyone can make a Biblical case against alcohol, given that Jesus, who knew no sin, made wine.  And this isn’t just wine for medicinal purposes or because the water wasn’t safe, excuses I’ve heard anti-alcohol Christians make.  (Another ancient religion, Islam forbids wine altogether, so it wasn’t a necessity for life.)  This was specifically alcohol for celebratory reasons.

But what I noticed this time is the distinction made here between “poor wine” and “good wine.”  The text affirms that some wine, as with other human artifacts, is better than others, an affirmation of quality, of aesthetic judgment.  And when Jesus makes wine through a miracle, it is specifically “good wine.”

But these observations just skim the surface of this text. [Read more…]

Bread, wine, and umami

No, this is not another post about the Sacrament.  Flying home on United yesterday, I read an interesting article in the airline magazine on “umami.”  Our tastebuds can perceive five different taste sensations, the combination of which–along with texture and temperature–constitutes all of the different flavors of foods.  The five tastes are  sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and “umami,” a Japanese word that I would translate as “savory.”  It’s that deep savory taste you get from a good steak or a piece of aged cheese.  It’s also found in mushrooms and tomatoes.  For a pure hit, which isn’t all that good-tasting by itself, taste some soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or MSG.

The point is that  umami needs to be complemented by other flavors to really taste good.  After making that observation, the article said this:

When combined with the acids or, more specifically, ribonucleotides isonine and guanosine—found in fermented foods, from yeast-based bread to wine—“umami synergism” occurs, flooding the mouth with an amped-up savoriness.

This is why bread and wine make food taste better!

via Hemispheres Inflight Magazine » Flavor of the Month.