When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever think of becoming a Sommelier? This might have been your goal, if you grew up in France or in any country or region where grapes are grown and the art of wine-making is passed on from generation to generation. Sommelier is the French word for wine taster, and not just anyone who drinks wine. According to Wikipedia, “a Sommelier or ‘wine steward’’ is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, who normally works in fine restaurants and specializes in all aspects of wine service, including food and wine pairings. The most important work of a Sommelier is in the areas of wine procurement, wine storage, wine cellar rotation, and expert service to wine consumers.” For all this to happen, the Sommelier must first taste the wine before purchasing it, in order to ensure that the wine is worthy of his/her wine cellar. A child growing up on a vineyard may think wine tasting is a lot more fun than managing a vineyard. (Some of you may be having a “V-8 Moment” right about now and are thinking, “RATS! I could have been a Sommelier!”)
Eric Pool, owner of Berryville Vineyards in Claremont, Illinois practices the “Five ‘S’s of Wine Tasting“:
1. See the wine. It should be clear, and if it’s red, have a deep color. The darker the better.*
2. Swirl the wine. Swirling releases the bouquet.*
3. Smell the wine. Smelling allows you to capture the flavor with your nose as well as your tongue.*
4. Sip the wine. Let it sit on the top of your tongue and suck air through it. It helps the wine to get more air interaction and open up its flavors.
5. Swallow. Tilt your head back and let it run down your throat.
*With all due respect to Eric Pool, who is more knowledgeable about viticulture and wine tasting than I am, I want to add my “two cents.” In my humble opinion, “the darker the better” is true with young red wine. However, as the wine ages (in a 58 degree cellar), a fine red wine, such as red Burgundy, is a soft red color with a brown tinted circle around the rim of the glass. The opposite is true of white wine. The more it ages, the darker and more golden in color it becomes. A fine white wine should not look “cloudy. “ Also, along with swirling the glass of wine to release its bouquet, one examines if the wine has “legs” or droplets of wine that form streams down the glass after swirling. A wine with “nice legs” is a well structured full-bodied wine. In addition to sipping the wine to “let it sit on your tongue” while sucking in air, the wine taster may also do a little “gargling” and move the sip of wine around in the mouth to ensure that all taste buds are involved. I also believe that the senses of touch and hearing play a part in wine tasting. For instance, one can feel if the wine is heavy or light while in the mouth. And there is nothing like a BIG POP when the cork is pulled from a bottle of wine. A LOUD POP is music to the wine drinker’s ears. In fact, a dull pop could mean that the wine is “corked”, meaning that the cork did not seal properly and air got into the wine when it wasn‘t supposed to. When this happens, the wine has a musty smell and taste, which is extremely disappointing to the wine drinker. (No, I am not a wine expert. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn once. I also took a wine tasting course in the ’90’s at BIG Y WINES, which is now TABLE AND VINE.)
An individual has to go through much education and training to become a Certified Sommelier. However, if the individual does not have a sensitive pallet and a “good nose” for wine, all the education and training in the world, rather in France or California, cannot make a person what he/she is not. Some people just don’t like wine. A friend of mine says that all wine tastes like vinegar to her. On the other hand, one does not have to be a Sommelier to be thankful for the five senses. They are gifts from God. How many times have you been spared from a disgusting mistake just by smelling into the milk carton before taking a giant gulp? And finding a piece of fruit that once was smooth and red and is now green and fuzzy is a sure indication that it is not going anywhere near my mouth, but is destined for the rubbish. And if there’s no snap to a stalk of celery, it is not going into my chicken salad. On the positive side, how wonderful it is to smell all the aromas coming from the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day or to know when the grilled steak is done to perfection just by feeling its “bounce” with the flat side of a fork. And there is nothing like biting into a flesh crisp apple, just picked from an orchard. The apple is just as fresh and crisp as the autumn air. Thank the Lord for our five senses!
On the surface, the occupation of Sommelier may seem like a cushy and fun job to have. But, just think of the pressure and the responsibility of being in charge of the wine for a Five Star restaurant. The wine you purchase may either make or break a restaurant’s reputation. Imagine the weight on your shoulders and the stress of being in charge of a five course meal for a foreign dignitary or the President, and having to make sure each course has the perfect food and wine pairing. I do enjoy a nice glass of wine with a lovely meal, but the stress that comes from being a Sommelier is not my idea of a made-in-the-shade stress-free perfect job.
God has a better “tasting” job for me and it has nothing to do with my abilities and everything to do with who God is and who He made me to be. A Psalm of David gives me this job description:
“I will extol the LORD at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted HEAR and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt His Name together.
I sought the LORD, and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around
those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD;
BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO TAKES REFUGE IN HIM.”
Psalm 34:8 tells me to “TASTE and see” that God is good. It does not say, “see and then taste.” There is no “five-step plan” to “taste and see that the LORD is good.” The Hebrew and English translations of the word “taste” are similar in meaning and can either mean tasting something by mouth or “to experience something cognitively or emotionally; to come to know something. Unlike the English translation of ‘taste‘ as being a temporary feeling such as in, ‘He got a taste of winning,’ the Hebrew translation does not necessarily have that aspect” (Thanks to Pastor Chris for this information). In other words, as with a good wine, God’s gift of faith has a long “finish” [after-taste] that will last until our “faith becomes sight” (Hymn: “Haste the Day”). All we have to do is “taste” and we will experience and know cognitively, emotionally and spiritually that God is good. This takes faith and God is the One who gives it to us. Just as He gives us the five senses, He gives us the gift of faith.
Our physical senses tell us that God is good. We experience and see God’s goodness and majesty in His creation. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Like fine wine, some people “taste and see” God’s goodness from His handiwork in creation, while other people only “taste” vinegar and see creation as a random “accident” which happened long ago in the cosmos or something like that. Those who have received God’s gift of faith do not need anymore proof of His goodness and mercy. By faith they put their trust in God and His Good News and live by it: “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). From my own experience of God’s goodness and mercy, I can say, “This poor [woman] called, and the LORD heard [her]; He saved [her] out of all [her] troubles.”
Sometimes, our physical senses can also deceive us and hide God’s goodness from our sight. Disappointments, discouragement, tragedies, uncertainties, the darkness which sin brings into the world can cloud our vision and make life “stink.” Instead of experiencing “the fragrance of the knowledge of Him [Christ]” and being “the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved” (II Corinthians 2:14b-15a), we find ourselves in a deep, dark, dank cellar. It is in those dark times when God holds on to us – when our faith is weak and His faith in us is strong. Psalm 37:23-24 reassures me, “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, He makes His steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hands.” In the darkest times of my life, God has held me tight and would not let me go. I have tasted and experienced His mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells me:
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Someone once told me that the yoke Jesus is referring to is a double yoke, used to harness two oxen to a plow. It is an illustration of Jesus being right next to us and He is pulling the weight for us. Unlike the Sommelier who has all the pressure on his shoulders to plan a perfect dinner party, Jesus takes the burden of trying to be perfect off our shoulders, when He became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. God knew we couldn’t do anything about our sins on our own. We need Jesus.
“God made Him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).
“I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 5:15).
Faith cannot be explained by our physical senses. It does not come by human effort or by chance. Faith is a gift of God given to us before time began. Faith believes that God is good and, because I know that God is good, I want to live by faith, for His glory and praise. I want to help others to “taste and see” God’s goodness and grace through His Son Jesus Christ in my life.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me“ (Galatians 2:20).
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11 6).
Christians are people who have tasted the goodness of God through His Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross as the atonement for their sins and has risen from the dead, so that those who have accepted His finished work on the cross can live forever with Him. By faith, Christians, people who love Christ and want to follow in His Way, also believe that Jesus is coming again. Until He does come again, Christians are instructed by Christ to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
“When the hour came, Jesus and His disciples reclined at the table. And He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’ After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and He gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:14-20).
The Apostle Paul instructs us, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (I Corinthians 11:26).
As a Christian, I celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a month at my church. This is not the only time I can remember what Jesus did for me on the cross. I can also remember Jesus’ death and resurrection and His coming again whenever I enjoy a meal with a glass of wine. I believe that wine is a gift from God, as well as the food I eat. What makes wine so special for me is that I know the Giver of the gift. With that said, I’d like to make a toast:
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen!” (I Timothy 1:17).
(Wine Tip: If you’re at a party and white wine is being served, after taking a sip, just say, “Mmm, leachy nuts.” Not very many people know what leachy nuts taste like, so those at the party will be extremely impressed with your refined wine palate. How wine made only from grapes can have hints of other fruit tastes is a subject for another time.)