1. Wine Was Poured on the Altar

Scripture devotes considerable attention to the korbanot—sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle and Holy Temple. Often, these sacrifices were accompanied by nesachim, wine libations, poured into a special cavity on the giant copper altar. One week a year, on Sukkot, water was also poured.

Read: The Joyous Water-Drawing Celebration

2. The Nazirite Forswore Wine

While wine has always been an integral part of how our people have dined and celebrated, there was someone for whom wine was anathema: the Nazirite, who vowed not to drink wine, cut his or her hair, or come into close contact with the dead for a period of time. The Nazir was often one who had lived excessively and suffered the consequences, and was now (temporarily) going to the other extreme to balance things out.

Read: The Nazir and the Nazirite Vow

3. Wine Has Special Kosher Consideration

Most plant-based foods are inherently kosher (provided that there is no cross-contamination with non-kosher food, insects are not present, and agricultural laws are adhered to). Wine, however, is an exception. Due to its special place in worship (including idolatry), there are extra restrictions on the making and handling of wine, and the production and handling of kosher wine must be done exclusively by Jews. Once wine has been boiled, it is rendered unfit for worship and no longer subject to this restriction. This cooked wine is known in Hebrew as mevushal.

Read: Kosher Wine and Grape Products

4. We Usher Shabbat and Holidays In and Out With Wine

The Torah commands us to “remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” The sages understand this to mean that we must verbally declare Shabbat a holy day, so on Friday (or holiday) nights, before we sit down to dinner, we say a prayer over wine in a ritual known as Kiddush (sanctification). (A truncated Kiddush is recited again the following day). After the Shabbat or holiday has ended, we perform a similar ceremony ( including sweet-smelling spices and a candle, in addition to the wine) known as Havdalah.

Read: Why Is Kiddush Said Over Wine?

5. We Drink 4 Cups on Passover Eve

On the first (two) night(s) Passover, we celebrate our nation’s miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery, becoming free people, dedicated to G‑d. The ritual-rich feast, known as a Seder, involves drinking four glasses of wine (or grape juice if that is not possible).

Read: Why Four Cups of Wine?

6. Grape Juice Is a Good Stand-In

While bona fide alcoholic wine is preferred for Kiddush and most other ceremonial purposes, especially the Passover Seder, grape juice is a passable alternative for someone who cannot tolerate wine, or an addict for whom wine is downright dangerous.

Read: 15 Steps to Freedom: The Seder for Recovering Addicts

7. Even More Wine Is Enjoyed on Purim

On the holiday of Purim, we recall how G‑d “turned the tables” on those who tried to destroy us in ancient Persia. The day’s celebration includes hearing the story of Purim read in the Book of Esther, giving charity, sending food gifts to friends, and feasting. At these feasts, the sages tell us, one who can safely do so should become inebriated to the point that they can no longer differentiate between the heroes and villains of the story.

Read: Do I Need to Drink on Purim?

8. Marriage Is Sealed Over a Glass (or Two)

The marriage ceremony consists of two stages. The groom places a ring on the bride’s finger, followed by a blessing said over a cup of wine. Then the nuptials are finalized with the recitation of seven blessings, also over a cup of wine. In each instance, the wine is sipped by both the bride and the groom.

Read: Wine at the Jewish Wedding

9. Scripture Is Full of Sad Wine Stories

There are many instances of people getting drunk and messing up in Scripture. Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, which, according to some, was a grape: “... for nothing causes more heartbreak than wine.” Ten generations later, after surviving the Great Flood, Noah planted a vineyard, got drunk, and shamed himself. Then we have Lot, who was given strong wine by his daughters, who then got him to impregnate them. Oy vey!

Read: The Torah Perspective on Alcohol

10. The Reviews Are Mixed

Despite these stories, nowhere does the Torah even hint at forbidding alcohol consumption, except in specific cases, such as a priest who is about to serve in the Holy Temple or the Nazirite. Looking at scripture, we get a sense that wine is both appreciated and viewed with suspicion, and rightfully so! Here are some examples:

  • Positive: “My wine brings joy to G‑d and man.” (Judges 9:13).
  • Negative: “Do not be among wine-guzzlers, among gluttonous eaters of meat for themselves.” (Proverbs 23:20)
  • It’s Complicated: “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing and wine to those of bitter soul.” (Proverbs 31:6)

Read: Can Wine Be Holy?

11. A Special Blessing Is Said

Before we eat or drink anything, we say a blessing specific to each class of foods. So we have one general blessing for things like water and meat, which do not grow from the ground, another blessing for tree fruits, and another for things that grow in or near the earth. Two exceptions are bread and wine, which each have their own unique blessings. Before drinking wine we thank G‑d, “Who creates fruit of the vine.” According to the sages of the Talmud (Berachot 35b), wine was singled out because it both gladdens a person and satisfies his hunger.

Read: The Blessing Over Wine

12. Jews Traditionally Toast ‘L’chaim - to Life!’

Before partaking in adult beverages, Jews traditionally toast l’chaim, “to life!” One reason for this salutation is precisely because drinking wine can lead to either camaraderie, good cheer and happiness, or misery, hurt-feelings, and shame. With this in mind, we express our prayerful wish that our drinking bring the best out of each of us and be a joyful, respectful, celebration of life.

Read: Why Do Jews Toast L’chaim?

13. G‑d Will Serve Special Wine

In the future, when G‑d will bring the final Redemption, he will serve us a sumptuous meal with meat from a giant bovine (the shor habor) and an equally gigantic fish (the leviathan). And of course, it will be followed by wine, which we will hold while reciting Grace After Meals. This wine is known as the yayin hameshumar, which can either mean “preserved wine,” because it has been carefully guarded from the beginning of time, or “strained wine,” because it had been strained from all impurities and dregs while still in the grapes.

Read: 15 Facts About the Future Redemption