The grape juice was allowed to stand and ferment in the collecting vessels for about six weeks. A sludge known as lees formed at the bottom of the vessels. The wine was then tipped up gently into jars without disturbing the sediment (Jer 48:11). The jars were sealed with clay, but there was a small hole by the handle that allowed the gases released during the remaining fermentation to escape. When the process was complete, the hole was sealed with a blob of wet clay and the owner’s name or seal was put on the clay. It was possible to put the wine in wineskins (goatskin bottles), but if the gases, then it would burst and the wine would be lost. This is the point of Jesus’ illustration in Matthew 9:17.

In New Testament times, wines were imported into Judaea from all over the Mediterranean world. The rich had cellars in their houses and stored the wine in narrow jars with pointed ends called amphorae. The pointed ends were buried in the earth to help keep the wine cool. Wine was also made from dates, pomegranates, apples, and grain. The wine made from the grain is probably referred to as as “fermented drink” in the Bible (Lev 10:9; Isa 56:12).

There were a number of uses for wine beside the obvious. It was used as a disinfectant to clean wounds before inserting the healing olive oil (Luke 10:34). The cheap wine (the soldiers’ wine), produced before the fermentation was completed in the clay storage jars, was mixed with myrrh or gall so as to relive pain (Matt 27:34).

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