To Jews there is no communal, religious or family life without wine. Each Sabbath starts with an act of blessing, the Kiddush or “Sanctification” is chanted over a cup of wine: “Blessed are you O Lord, Our God for creating the fruit of the vine.” Most Jewish families will own a “Kiddush Cup” in the form of a silver goblet or beaker. Four glasses of wine must be drunk at Passover (or grape juice for children), two at weddings, one at circumcisions. At a funeral in ancient times a bereaved was offered ten glasses of wine, the “Cup of Consolation”. Wine is used to sanctify festivals, Bar Mitzvahs and births. At the Festival of Purim, Jews are entreated to drink enough so they are unable to tell the difference between Cursed be Haman and “Blessed be Mordechai”. Traditionally a Jewish boy will have his first taste of wine at his circumcision when only eight days old, and part of a ritual at a wedding is for the groom to stamp on and shatter a wine glass. The joy of wine is introduced to each act of worship.
For the Kiddush ceremony in the Jewish home and in synagogues, sweet red (and usually fortified) wine is traditionally used for two reasons: one, as an open bottle will last until the next week, and two, for children a sip of sweet wine is both palatable and a treat!
The association between wine, Israel and Judaism creates an unique bond between wine and the Jewish people. Also the Christian use of Altar or Communion wine, stemmed not only from the Jewish faith but also from the high profile of wine in the Holy Land at this time. Wine writer Andrew Jefford wrote in the Evening Standard Wine Guide: “The Land of Israel staggers beneath its burden of history and myth, and much of that intoxicating scripturally sanctified baggage is wine-sodden. What Christian would not like to drink the wine of Cana or Galilee after a thoughtful afternoon amongst the splintery, fissured olives of Gethsemane. What Jew would prefer a French kosher wine to one from the land which (according to the Book of Numbers) Moses spies returned bearing an enormous cluster of grapes suspended from a pole?”