The Spirituality of Wine

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Gisela H. Kreglinger
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
    , April
     2016.
     300 pages.
     $24.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780802867896.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

In this tasteful, opulent book, Gisela Kreglinger offers a refreshing take not only on wine, but also on overcoming the dualistic spirituality that divides the physical and spiritual, the secular and the sacred. The glass Kreglinger serves is carefully crafted, far from dry, and if read by many would leave a long lasting fruitful taste on the tongue of the church. Kreglinger is from a family of vintners (winemakers), and holds a PhD in historical theology from St. Andrews. She offers a theologically rich account of the fruit of the vine that has overflowed from her own experience in the vineyard.

In the first half of the glass, the book elucidates the biblical and theological foundations of the spirituality of wine. In the first chapter, Kreglinger reveals the deeply intertwined narrative of creation and redemption in scripture. The theme of wine is imbedded into this story, revealing that a profound relationship exists between the created and the creator. She delightfully explains how God is redeeming all of creation, and that wine features not only as an aspect of creation that is being redeemed, but also as a sign of the new creation to come. In chapter 2, she walks the reader through the rich history of wine and the church, specifically highlighting the role the church played in viticulture. She underlines the unnatural split of the church from wine in the 19th century British and American temperance movements. Kreglinger spotlights the effect this has had on the Western church’s approach to the Lord’s Supper, creation, and celebration. In the third chapter, Kreglinger turns to the Lord’s Supper, positing that “the Eucharist is an embodied and communal ritual and anchors our experience of faith in creation” (82). Furthermore, she shows how the Lord’s Supper points us to God’s desire to heal us; Christ features as the one who stepped into the divine winepress and bore the sins and injustice of this world to reconcile all people with God. Kreglinger explores in chapter 4 the role wine can play in our understanding of joy and feasting. “Wine is a gift from God and enhances our festive play before God” (99). In chapter 5, she allows us to revel in the human capacity to smell and taste how a well-crafted wine can ripple across our senses in a prayerful way: tasting the world, and praising God for it.

The second half of the glass offers a dialogue between the world of wine and Christian spirituality. In the sixth chapter, Kreglinger develops a theology of place related to wine, cultivating the idea that well-crafted wine reveals the splendors of specific locations like no other food. Wine is embedded in creation and reflects the diversity of each individual vineyard. Kreglinger questions the role of technology in the seventh chapter. She challenges vintners to utilize technology not as a crutch, but in a way that enables human creativity. She links the idea of human creativity and technology to Christian spirituality, and challenges Christians to use technology with discernment. “Both worlds need to remember that this world is our only home, and the best way to take care of it is to work with the rhythms and limitations of creation rather than seeking to ignore and transcend them” (163). Simply put, the eighth chapter establishes that wine has tremendous health benefits. This is juxtaposed fittingly with chapter 9, which is a call to not abuse God’s good gift, and a reflection on sin’s effect on the individual and community. The final chapter polishes the glass off, helping us to recognize that Kreglinger is calling for a return of Christian classical synthesis, a deep interrelation between God, creation, and humanity; and that wine helps us to taste and see this deep truth.

Kreglinger has offered the church an edifying book that has something to offer every reader. Her exposition in the closing chapter on God the Father as the vinedresser and careful reflection on the wisdom of vintners for the church make this book indispensable for every thoughtful pastor's library. Aiding her depth of scholarship, Kreglinger is a fantastic writer, which made this book not only intellectually stimulating, but also an enjoyable read. It is without a doubt that had Augustine come across this book he would have said to pick it up and read it, and pick up a glass as well!

About the Reviewer(s): 

Gregory Parker, Jr. is a graduate student at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Date of Review: 
November 14, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Gisela H. Kreglinger grew up on a winery in Franconia, Germany; her family has been crafting wine for many generations. She holds a PhD in historical theology from the University of St. Andrews, and she taught Christian spirituality for four years before turning to writing full-time.

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