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The Soul of Wine

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Interesting take and insights, from someone who invests in wine, but also believes in the Bible.  Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to review this book.
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What has wine got to do with God and spirituality? How does wine appreciation and faith matters relate to each other? What is the soul of wine? Author and wine-lover Gisela Kreglinger leads us through the vineyard of spirituality to connect the beauty of God's creation of wine to the profound meaning behind God's intent, purpose, and goodness. Instead of letting spirituality speak into the world of fine wine, Kreglinger goes the other direction to let wine speak to us about spirituality. Jews believe wines gladden their hearts. Many cultures throughout the world hold wines in a special albeit with a mysterious awe. Going back to the Bible, we learn about Jesus's encounters with wine. From the wedding at Cana where He turned water into wine; to the Last Supper where He served his disciples with bread and wine. Even the apostle Paul mentions wine for medicinal purposes. There is also a lot that we can learn about wine itself. It not only reveals God to us, it leads us to God's gifts for us. This is what the author aims to do: "help us rediscover wine as a spiritual and cultural gift." We need to sip it bit by bit in order to savour the goodness of the colour, the smell, the taste, and the overall experience. This cannot be rushed. When we are thirsty, we often gulp down a glass of water. Sometimes we do the same with wine. This reduces wine to simply a liquid to be swallowed instead of a gift to be savoured. This is the author's second book on wine and faith matters. Her first was "The Spirituality of Wine" which links the whole process of wine-making, wine-tasting, and wine-drinking, with the ordinary things in life. This book continues that orientation but with a more personalized focus on God and His desire to reach out and touch us. Her thesis is this: "Wine is an affair of the heart. Savoring wine can and should be an affair of the heart where we are moved and touched and elevated." This affair is essentially about God reaching out to us. Thus, this book goes beyond mere spirituality toward an encounter with God. How does wine teach us this? Kreglinger describes this in 14 chapters. I like to mention a few highlights.

Firstly, wine is a mystery to behold rather than a puzzle to be solved. This marvel and wonder will sustain our connection with the Creator and Divine Being. Just like people are not to be treated as a problem to be solved or a a means to an end, we need to learn to enjoy God for who He is instead of what we make Him to be. This constant back-and-forth is what the author tries her best to do throughout the book. Kreglinger says it well, that many people reduces wine appreciation to a matter of good/bad; right/wrong; or some binary decision making. It is like saying appreciating wine is not exactly a science but an art. Truth is, wine is more than that. Wine invites us to taste for ourselves whether we like the texture or not. It teaches us to appreciate the history, the story, the narrative of the creation of wine. We need to learn to be comfortable with mystery instead of constantly trying to apply exact science into the art of drinking wine. Once we are able to be comfortable with that, we are on the way to appreciating life for what it is, instead of seeing life as a problem or puzzle to be solved. Learning to behold the beauty of wine helps us appreciate the beauty of one another. Perhaps, this can be applied to our relationships too. That we learn to pace ourselves with one another patiently and freely without being bounded by schedules or time constraints. Spirituality is about being involved to treat one another as persons rather than machines.

Secondly, we learn about how wine connects us to a whole potpourri of food and celebration. It not only adds to the menu. It enhances the enjoyment. Wine is to be savoured and this attitude pushes back against our culture of fast-food and quick meals. We need to resist the temptation to rush our food and eating. It can also bring about stress release. Kreglinger brilliantly connects wine with making peace, and making peace with prayer. Wine is used to understand how God "kisses humanity" when the wine-lover becomes motivated to find out more about the history until the passion for wine turns into love for God. In turn, one realizes that God had been there loving us all along! Wine is also a great companion to food in the sense that it elevates the enjoyment of food. Sip instead of gulping. Eat instead of gobbling. Savour instead of rushing. For relationships are not to be straitjacketed into what we want it to be. They are to be nourished and nurtured into letting us be who we are created to be. Kreglinger notes how the very act of eating and drinking has become a battleground against overeating, against indulgence, against gluttony or drunkenness, and against corrupting the gifts of God.

Thirdly, any topic about the soul of anything inevitably leads to a bare vulnerability about ourselves. Like how God makes himself vulnerable via the full revelation in Christ, we learn how wine opens up ourselves for conversations and for honest friendships. She notes how many modern marriages had broken down due to the inability of couples to bridge their differences. Amazingly, wine is seen as that go-between to increase the middle space for couples to relate better. Physically, it enhances sexuality. Relationally, it stimulates conversations. Spiritually, it sustains appreciation for each other instead of mere using the other for one's ends. Taking inspiration from the Songs of Songs, Kreglinger notes the interesting "smack in the middle of the Bible" as a literary tool to understand this bridge. Eventually, we sees how passion for wine turns into intermingling of passions for God and for one another.

Like her first book, apart from the bits of wine appreciation tips scattered throughout the book, there is a chapter of discussion questions and formal wine-tasting lesson. The premise is clear. We appreciate wine because God had blessed us with the gift of wine. Wine is precious in the Old Testament. Relationships are enhanced through the enjoyment of wine. Jesus turned water into wine. The Holy Eucharist had wine as a major element on the table. These and much more affirm the place of wine biblically. We ought to do the same. This book is the most personal and deepest expression of the author's love for wine and God.

Gisela Kreglinger grew up in a family-owned winery in Franconia, Germany. She has a deep passion for all things spiritual and especially anything that is wine-related. She holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of St Andrews.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of InterVarsity Press and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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An insightful book on how to appreciate wine for the gift it is. A nice addition to this concept after the author published the more academic "Spirituality of Wine." A good mix of story, Scripture and application.
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This book, while enlightening, is a serious mixed bag and my rating (3 out of 5) reflects this. The author couldn't decide if she wanted to write a memoir, a wine guide, a book of Christian (Protestant) reflection, or a book about the spiritual  aspects of wine. As a result her chapters are all over the place, sometimes one thing, sometimes another, often more than one of these things in the same short chapter. Transitions are abrupt and I could never figure out where the book was going, although I enjoyed it.

Another thing bothered me though, thinking from the fuller theology of Catholicism. When she talked specifically about the Eucharist her theology got in the way of understanding many of the wonderful resonances between wine, the agricultural product, and Christ's sacrifice. I can understand this at least because her theology of the Eucharist is different as a Protestant. Her theology also got in the way of understanding the role that all five senses can and do  play in Mass or Communion services.

What I cannot understand is her lack of understanding of two Biblical things. First, her description of the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana,m while it talks about God's superabundance, it completely leaves out that this miracle is an important prefigure of the Last Supper. This is NOT something you need to be Catholic to understand.

Then again when she talks about Song of Songs she only focuses on the actual story. She never talks about the important allegory of this book, that the bridegroom & bride are a metaphor for Christ and his Church. Without this this chapter is very siperficial and rather silly.

Finally, it concerns me that although much of this book is a book about wine, she rarely gives any concrete suggestions, leaving them all to an appendix about tasting wine. Perhaps her suggestions come off better in her live talks. In a book they just are not enough.

I was really hoping for more from this book and ended up disappointed.
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The Soul of Wine
Savoring the Goodness of God

by Gisela H. Kreglinger

InterVarsity Press

IVP Books

Christian , Religion & Spirituality

Pub Date 03 Dec 2019

I am reviewing a copy of The Soul of Wine through Intervarsity Press and Netgalley:

From ancient times people have believed that wine is imbued with spiritual meaning and can become a mediator between heaven and earth, evoking divine presence. The Greeks believed in the wine god Dionysius, the Romans in Bacchus, and the Etruscans in Fufluns. The Jews believe God Gabe them wine to give them glad hearts, while the Christmas Celebrate the Last Supper with bread and wine.

Wine is a wonderful, lavish gift from God, it is mysterious but in this book Gisela Kreglinger who is the daughter of a contest and a trained theologian shows us how to look at wine as a more full bodied Christian Spirituality She shows us how the soulful savoring of wine is God’s way of wooing us back into a great love affair.

We are reminded that Jesus’s first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding. During Communion we receive both bread and wine Through these gifts we experience God’s glorious and loving presence among us, feeding and nurturing us in body, soul, and spirit. Wine was never meant just for a small and elite group of well-to-do people but is for us all.

I have found that The Soul of the Wine brings forth good arguments in an understandable manner, and is well written and is therefore worthy of five out of five stars.

Happy Reading!
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