—Biblical Data:

The juice of the grape is the subject of special praise in the Scriptures. The "vine tree" is distinguished from the other trees in the forest (Ezek. xv. 2). The fig-tree is next in rank to the vine (Deut. viii. 8), though as food the fig is of greater importance (comp. Num. xx. 5) than the "wine which cheereth God and man" (Judges ix. 13; comp. Ps. civ. 15; Eccl. x. 19). Wine is a good stimulant for "such as be faint in the wilderness" (II Sam. xvi. 2), and for "those that be of heavy hearts" (Prov. xxxi. 6).

The goodness of wine is reflected in the figure in which Israel is likened to a vine brought from Egypt and planted in the Holy Land, where it took deep root, spread out, and prospered (Ps. lxxx. 9-11). The blessed wife is like "a fruitful vine by the sides of thy house" (Ps. cxxviii. 3). When peace reigns every man rests "under his vine and under his fig-tree" (I Kings v. 5 [A. V. iv. 25]). An abundance of wine indicates prosperity. Jacob blessed Judah that "he washed his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes" (Gen. xlix. 11).

Bread as an indispensable food and wine as a luxury represent two extremes; they were used as signs of welcome and good-will to Abraham (Gen. xiv. 18). A libation of wine was part of the ceremonial sacrifices, varying in quantity from one-half to one-fourth of a hin measure (Num. xxviii. 14).

Wine-drinking was generally accompanied by singing (Isa. xxiv. 9). A regular wine-room ("bet ha-yayin") was used (Cant. ii. 4), and wine-cellars ("oẓerot yayin"; I Chron. xxvii. 27) are mentioned. The wine was bottled in vessels termed "nebel" and "nod" (I Sam. i. 24, xvi. 20), made in various shapes from the skins of goats and sheep, and was sold in bath measures. The wine was drunk from a "mizraḳ," or "gabia'" (bowl; Jer. xxxv. 5), or a "kos" (cup). The wine-press was called "gat" and "purah"; while the "yeḳeb" was probably the vat into which the wine flowed from the press. The "vine of Sodom" (Deut. xxxii. 32), which probably grew by the Dead Sea, was the poorest kind. The "vine of the fields" (II Kings iv. 39) was a wild, uncultivated sort, and the "soreḳ" (Isa. v. 2) was the choicest vine, producing dark-colored grapes; in Arabic it is called "suriḳ."

There were different kinds of wine. "Yayin" was the ordinary matured, fermented wine, "tirosh" was a new wine, and "shekar" was an old, powerful wine ("strong drink"). The red wine was the better and stronger (Ps. lxxv. 9 [A. V. 8]; Prov. xxiii. 31). Perhaps the wine of Helbon (Ezek. xxvii. 18) and the wine of Lebanon (Hos. xiv. 7) were white wines. The vines of Hebron were noted for their large clustersof grapes (Num. xiii. 23). Samaria was the center of vineyards (Jer. xxxi. 5; Micah i. 6), and the Ephraimites were heavy wine-drinkers (Isa. xxviii. 1). There were also "yayin ha-reḳaḥ" (spiced wine; Cant. viii. 2), "ashishah" (hardened sirup of grapes), "shemarim (wine-dregs), and "ḥomeẓ yayin" (vinegar). Some wines were mixed with poisonous substances ("yayin tar'elah"; Ps. lx. 5; comp. lxxv.9, "mesek" [mixture]). The "wine of the condemned" ("yen 'anushim") is wine paid as a forfeit (Amos ii. 8), and "wine of violence" (Prov. iv. 17) is wine obtained by illegal means.

E. G. H. J. D. E.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Wine is called "yayin" because it brings lamentation and wailing ("yelalah" and "wai") into the world, and "tirosh" because one that drinks it habitually is certain to become poor (). R. Kahana said the latter term is written sometimes , and sometimes ; that means, if drunk in moderation it gives leadership ( = "head"); if drunk in excess it leads to poverty (Yoma 76b). "Tirosh" includes all kinds of sweet juices and must, and does not include fermented wine (Tosef., Ned. iv. 3). "Yayin" is to be distinguished from "shekar"; the former is diluted with water ("mazug"); the latter is undiluted ("yayin ḥai"; Num. R. x. 8; comp. Sifre, Num. 23). In Talmudic usage "shekar" means "mead," or "beer," and according to R. Papa, it denotes drinking to satiety and intoxication (Suk. 49b).

In metaphorical usage, wine represents the essence of goodness. The Torah, Jerusalem, Israel, the Messiah, the righteous—all are compared to wine. The wicked are likened unto vinegar, and the good man who turns to wickedness is compared to sour wine. Eleazar b. Simeon was called "Vinegar, the son of Wine" (B. M. 83b). The wine which is kept for the righteous in the world to come has been preserved in the grape ever since the six days of creation (Ber. 34b).

Presses and Receptacles.

The process of making wine began with gathering the grapes into a vat ("gat"). There were vats hewn out of stone, cemented or potter-made vats, and wooden vats ("Ab. Zarah v. 11). Next to the vat was a cistern ("bor"), into which the juice ran through a connecting trough or pipe ("ẓinnor"). Two vats were sometimes connected with one cistern (B. Ḳ. ii. 2). The building containing or adjoining the wine-presses was called "bet ha-gat" (Tosef., Ter. iii. 7). The newly pressed wine was strained through a filter, sometimes in the shape of a funnel ("meshammeret"; Yer. Ter. viii. 3), or through a linen cloth ("sudar"), in order to remove husks, stalks, etc. A wooden roller or beam, fixed into a socket in the wall, was lowered to press the grapes down into the vat (Shab. i. 9; Ṭoh. x. 8).

The cistern was emptied by a ladle or dipper called the "maḥaẓ" (Ṭoh. x. 7), the wine being transferred to large receptacles known variously as "kad," "ḳanḳan," "garab," "danna," and "ḥabit." Two styles of ḥabit, the Lydian and the Bethlehemite (Niddah vi. 6), were used, the former being a smaller barrel or cask. All these receptacles were rounded earthen vessels, tightly sealed with pitch. The foster-mother of Abaye is authority for the statement that a six-measure cask properly sealed is worth more than an eight-measure cask that is not sealed (B. ḳ. 12a). New wine stood for at least forty days before it was admissible as a drink-offering ('Eduy. vi. 1; B. B. 97a). When the wine had sufficiently settled it was drawn off into bottles known as "lagin" or "leginah" and "ẓarẓur," the latter being a stone vessel with a rim and strainer, a kind of cooler (Sanh. 106a); an earthen pitcher, "ḥaẓab," was also used (Men. viii. 7). The drinking-vessel was the Biblical "kos." The wine was kept in cellars, and from them was removed to storerooms called "hefteḳ," or "apoṭiḳ" (ἀποθήκη), a pantry or shelves in the wineshop. Bottles of wine from this pantry were exposed for sale in baskets in front of the counter ('Ab. Zarah ii. 7, 39b).


The quality of a wine was known by its color and by the locality from which it came, red wine being better than white wine. Ḳeruḥim (probably the Coreæ of Josephus) in Palestine produced the best wine (Men. viii. 6), after which came the red wine of Phrygia (Perugita; Shab. 147b), the light-red wine of Sharon (Shab. 77a), and "yayin Kushi" (Ethiopian wine; B. B. 97b). There were special mixtures of wine. Among these were: (1) "alunṭit," made of old wine, with a mixture of very clear water and balsam; used especially after bathing (Tosef., Dem. i. 24; 'Ab. Zarah 30a); (2) "ḳafrisin" (caper-wine, or, according to Rashi, Cyprus wine), an ingredient of the sacred incense (Ker. 6a); (3) "yen ẓimmuḳin" (raisin-wine); (4) "inomilin" (οἰνόμελι), wine mixed with honey and pepper (Shab. xx. 2; 'Ab. Zarah l.c.); (5) "ilyoston" (*ήλιόστεον), a sweet wine ("vinum dulce") from grapes dried in the sun for three days, and then gathered and trodden in the midday heat (Men. viii. 6; B. B. 97b); (6) "me'ushshan," from the juice of smoked or fumigated sweet grapes (Men. l.c.); not fit for libation; (7) "enogeron" (οινόγαρον), a sauce of oil and garum to which wine was added; (8) "apiḳṭewizin" (ἀποκοτταβίζειν), a wine emetic, taken before a meal (Shab. 12a); (9) "ḳundiṭon" ("conditum"), a spiced wine ('Ab. Zarah ii. 3); (10) "pesintiṭon" ("absinthiatum"), a bitter wine (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 3); (11) "yen tappuḥim," made from apples; cider; (12) "yen temarim," date-wine. Wine made from grapes grown on isolated vines ("roglit") is distinguished from that made of the grapes of a vine suspended from branches or trained over an espalier ("dalit"); the latter was unfit for libation (Men. 86b).

During the time of fermentation the wine that was affected with sourness was called "yayin ḳoses" (Yer. Pe'ah ii., end), and when matured sour it was "ḥomeẓ" (vinegar). Good vinegar was made by putting barley in the wine. In former times Judean wine never became sour unless barley was put in it; but after the destruction of the Temple that characteristic passed to the Edomite (Roman) wine. Certain vinegar was called the "Edomite vinegar" (Pes. 42b).

Fresh wine before fermenting was called "yayin mi-gat" (wine of the vat; Sanh. 70a). The ordinary wine was of the current vintage. The vintage of the previous year was called "yayin yashan" (old wine). The third year's vintage was "yayin meyushshan" (very old wine). Ordinary, fermented wine, accordingto Raba, must be strong enough to take one-third water, otherwise it is not to be regarded as wine (Shab. 77a). R. Joseph, who was blind, could tell by taste whether a wine was up to the standard of Raba ('Er. 54a).

Medicinal Value.

Wine taken in moderation was considered a healthful stimulant, possessing many curative elements. The Jewish sages were wont to say, "Wine is the greatest of all medicines; where wine is lacking, there drugs are necessary" (B. B. 58b). R. Huna said, "Wine helps to open the heart to reasoning" (B. B. 12b). R. Papa thought that when one could substitute beer for wine, it should be done for the sake of economy. But his view is opposed on the ground that the preservation of one's health is paramount to considerations of economy (Shab. 140b). Three things, wine, white bread, and fat meat, reduce the feces, lend erectness to one's bearing, and strengthen the sight. Very old wine benefits the whole body (Pes. 42b). Ordinary wine is harmful to the intestines, but old wine is beneficial (Ber. 51a). Rabbi was cured of a severe disorder of the bowels by drinking apple-wine seventy years old, a Gentile having stored away 300 casks of it ('Ab. Zarah 40b). "The good things of Egypt" (Gen. xlv. 23) which Joseph sent to his father are supposed by R. Eleazar to have included "old wine," which satisfies the elderly person (Meg. 16b). At the great banquet given by King Ahasuerus the wine put before each guest was from the province whence he came and of the vintage of the year of his birth (Meg. 12a). Until the age of forty liberal eating is beneficial; but after forty it is better to drink more and eat less (Shab. 152a). R. Papa said wine is more nourishing when taken in large mouthfuls. Raba advised students who were provided with little wine to take it in liberal drafts (Suk. 49b) in order to secure the greatest possible benefit from it. Wine gives an appetite, cheers the body, and satisfies the stomach (Ber. 35b). After bleeding, according to Rab, a substantial meal of meat is necessary; according to Samuel, wine should be taken freely, in order that the red of the wine may replace the red of the blood that has been lost (Shab. 129a).


The benefit derived from wine depends upon its being drunk in moderation, as overindulgence is injurious. Abba Saul, who was a grave-digger, made careful observations upon bones, and found that the bones of those who had drunk natural (unmixed) wine were "scorched"; of those who had used mixed wine were dry and transparent; of those who had taken wine in moderation were "oiled," that is, they had retained the marrow (Niddah 24b). Some of the rabbis were light drinkers. R. Joseph and Mar 'Uḳba, after bathing, were given cups of inomilin wine (see above). R. Joseph felt it going through his body from the top of his head to his toes, and feared another cup would endanger his life; yet Mar 'Uḳba drank it every day and was not unpleasantly affected by it, having taken it habitually (Shab. 140a). R. Judah did not take wine, except at religious ceremonies, such as "Ḳiddush," "Habdalah," and the Seder of Passover (four cups). The Seder wine affected him so seriously that he was compelled to keep his head swathed till the following feast-day—Pentecost (Ned. 49b).

The best remedy for drunkenness is sleep. "Wine is strong, but sleep breaks its force" (B. B. 10a). Walking throws off the fumes of wine, the necessary amount of exercise being in the proportion of about three miles to a quarter-measure of Italian wine ('Er. 64b). Rubbing the palms and knees with oil and salt was a measure favored by some scholars who had indulged overmuch (Shab. 66b).

For religious ceremonies wine is preferable to other beverages. Wine "cheereth God" (Judges ix. 13); hence no religious ceremony should be performed with other beverages than wine (Ber. 35a). Over all fruit the benediction used is that for "the fruits of the tree," but over wine a special benediction for "the fruits of the vine" is pronounced (Ber. vi. 1). This latter benediction is, according to R. Eliezer, pronounced only when the wine has been properly mixed with water. Over natural wine the benediction is the same as that used for the "fruits of the tree" (Ber. 50b). The drinking of natural wine on the night of Passover is not "in the manner of free men" (Pes. 108b). "Ḳiddush" and "Habdalah" should be recited over a cup of wine. Beer may be used in countries where that is the national beverage (Pes. 106a, 107a). According to Raba, one may squeeze the juice of a bunch of grapes into a cup and say the "Ḳiddush" (B. B. 97b). The cup is filled with natural wine during grace, in memory of the Holy Land, where the best wine is produced; but after grace the wine is mixed.

The words introducing the grace, "Let us praise Him whose food we have eaten, and by whose goodness we live," are said over a cup of wine, part of which is passed to the hostess (Ber. 50a). Ulla, when the guest of R. Naḥman, was invited to pronounce the grace over wine, and the latter suggested the propriety of sending part of the wine to his guest's wife, Yalta; but Ulla demurred, declaring that the host is the principal channel of blessing, and passed it to R. Naḥman. When Yalta heard this she was enraged, and expressed her indignation by going to the wine-room ("be ḥamra") and breaking up 400 casks of wine (Ber. 51b). R. Akiba, when he made a feast in honor of his son, proposed, "Wine and long life to the Rabbis and their disciples!" (Shab. 67b).

In Mourning.

Following the Scriptural precept, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts" (Prov. xxxi. 6), the Rabbis ordered ten cups of wine to be served with the "meal of consolation" at the mourner's house: three cups before the meal, "to open the bowels," three cups between courses, to help digestion, and four cups after the grace. Later four cups were added in honor of the ḥazzanim, the parnasim, the Temple, and the nasi Gamaliel. So many cups producing drunkenness, the last four were afterward discontinued (Ket. 8b). Apparently this custom was in force when the Temple was in existence, and persisted in Talmudic times; it disappeared in the geonic period. R. Ḥanan declared that wine was created for the sole purpose of consoling the bereaved and rewarding the wicked forwhatever good they may do in this world, in order that they may have no claim upon the world to come (Sanh. 70a). After the destruction of the Temple many Pharisees, as a sign of mourning, vowed to abstain from eating meat and drinking wine, but were dissuaded from issuing a decree which the public could not observe (B. B. 60b). R. Judah b. Bathyra said, "Meat was the principal accompaniment of joy in the time of the Temple, wine in post-exilic times" (Pes. 109a).

Rab said that for three days after purchase the seller is responsible if the wine turns sour; but after that his responsibility ceases. R. Samuel declared that responsibility falls upon the purchaser immediately upon the delivery of the wine, the rule being "Wine rests on the owner's shoulders." R. Ḥiyya b. Joseph said, "Wine must share the owner's luck" (B. B. 96a, b, 98a). If one sells a cellarful of wine, the purchaser must accept ten casks of sour wine in every hundred (Tosef., B. B. vi. 6). Whoever sells spiced wine is responsible for sourness until the following Pentecost (i.e., until the hot weather sets in). If he sells "old wine," it must be of the second year's vintage; if "very old wine" ("meyushshan"), it must be of the third year's vintage (B. B. vi. 2).

The question of responsibility on the part of carriers of wine ("sheḳulai") is discussed. When Rabbah bar Ḥana's hired carriers broke a cask he seized their overgarments; thereupon the carriers appealed to Rab, who ordered Rabbah to return their garments. "Is this the law?" asked Rabbah in astonishment. "It is the moral law," answered Rab, citing, "That thou mayest walk in the way of good men" (Prov. ii. 20). When the garments had been returned the carriers appealed again: "We are poor men; we have worked all day; and now we are hungry, and have nothing." Rab then ordered Rabbah to pay them their wages. "Is this the law?" inquired Rabbah. "It is the higher law," replied Rab, completing the verse previously cited—"and keep the paths of the righteous" (B. M. 83a).

As a commodity, wine has an important place in the business world. A large proportion of the trade in wine for the Feast of Passover is controlled by Jews. The agricultural activity of Palestine is directed mainly to viticulture. The Rothschild cellars at Rishon le-Ẓiyyon receive almost the entire produce of the Jewish colonists, which, through the Carmel Wine Company, is distributed throughout Russia, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, France, England, and the United States. The vintage of 1904 in the Rothschild cellars exceeded 7,000,000 bottles, of which 200,000 were sold in Warsaw. See Agricultural Colonies in Palestine.

Regarding the interdiction of wine prepared or handled by Gentiles see Nesek.

  • C. H. Fowler, The Wine of the Bible, New York, 1878;
  • W. Ebstein, Die Medizin im Neuen Testament und im Talmud, i. 36, 167; ii. 250, Stuttgart, 1903.
E. C. J. D. E.