I was with an Episcopalian one time and this was no ordinary Episcopalian this was a Dean and that means a Very Reverend and that means a Very Serious Episcopalian so I committed the faux pas of ordering White Zinfandel and he proceeded to give me a Very Reverend Lecture about how “White Zinfandel is wine for people who really don’t like wine.”
The truth is that I grew up as a Methodist drinking sweet iced tea and Kool-Aid and the taste of Merlot remains a bit weird to my mouth and the fact that a wine tastes a little more like Kool-Aid than Merlot is a plus. Don’t tell the fine-wine cops. But despite the Kool-Aid-ical virtues of White Zinfandel, I want you to introduce you to the Perfect Wine for Methodists.
It’s called Manischewitz, and it’s a sweet kosher wine which means they probably didn’t make it with Methodists in mind. Actually there seems to be some debate about its kosher-osity because it’s sweetened with corn syrup which is apparently kosher all year long except for Pesach (Passover) when corn is off the kosher list so the Manischewitz folks make up a special batch with cane syrup for Pesach.
There are three principal reasons why Manischewitz is the Perfect Wine for Methodists.
1. It’s cheap. I mean, it’s really cheap, like you can get a 750 ml bottle at Target for $3.59. Think about that the next time you’re staring at a bottle of Pinot Noir for $11.99 that you know you are not going to like. You could have a Manischewitz and donate the remaining $7 to Nothing But Nets or the UMCOR Haiti relief fund. What would John Wesley do? All the good he can!
2. It’s sweet. I mean, it’s really sweet, almost as sweet as my mother’s iced, tea and she was one of those southern ladies who sweetened the tea while it was hot so as to increase massively the amount of sugar that could be dissolved into iced tea. I told you it has corn syrup. It’s like Grapette with a kick. You’re going to like this; I promise you.
Finally and most importantly, 3. it’s made with Concord grape juice which means that with the slight alteration involved in fermentation, it tastes for all the world like Welch’s Grape Juice, which of course is what Methodists have served up for the Lord’s supper since the time of Thomas Welch himself.
Thomas Bramwell Welch (1825-1903) is not be confused with a latter-day Welch who founded the John Birch Society. Thomas Welch had grown up in the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion in Britain before relocating to Vineland (appropriately) New Jersey. In 1869 he invented his method of pasteurizing grape juice to preserve it unfermented. Despite the fact that John Wesley drank wine and ale, and the fact that the old Methodist General Rules only forbade “spirituous liquors” (i.e., distilled liquor), Methodists were moving in the direction of advocating total abstinence from alcohol in Thomas Welch’s day, and eventually required the use of “the pure, unfermented juice of the grape” in the Lord’s supper. We call that requirement the Welch Rubric. It means that whether Methodists are teetotal or not, they have a fine, discerning taste for the Concord grape and its derivatives.
In 1888, 19 years after Welch’s discovery, the Manischewitz company began manufacturing its kosher wine from Concord grapes. Concord grapes both for Welch’s and for Manischwewitz are cultivated in the Chatauqua region of western New York. So there’s a reason why Manischewitz tastes right. It’s a miracle. It’s Manischewitz. It’s the Perfect Wine for Methodists.