In this biweekly feature, we seek to encourage the local church by remembering the times when things were much, much worse.
It’s weird to think about, but a lot of the things we take for granted are almost shockingly recent inventions. The can opener didn’t exist until 1870—nearly a full century after canned food was first produced (people ate so much canned food that year, you guys). Doors have been around forever, but doorknobs weren’t invented until 1878 (and people were finally able to leave their houses). And grape juice?
Grape juice wasn’t a thing until 1869.
That may surprise you. There have always been grapes, and they’ve always had juice, right? Well, yeah...no...sorta. See, the thing about grapes is that their juice is loaded with sugar, and their skins naturally cultivate yeast, so the moment you squash a grape, the yeast gets in the sugary juice and starts turning it into alcohol. The label on that thousand-dollar bottle of cabernet you’ve got in your cellar might tell you otherwise, but, like most of Francis Ford Coppola’s career, winemaking is something a toddler could do by accident.
Prior to the post-Civil War era, if you wanted your grapes to last past next Tuesday, you only had two options: Dry them out and make raisins, or squash them to make wine—and since raisins are only useful for ruining perfectly good cookies, there was really only one option. This was okay, though, because—according to the psalmist, at least—wine is a gift from God:
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains ...1
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