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Book 1, Lesson 6
Preserving Grape Juice


The outline in this lesson continues from lesson 5.

A Second Method of Preserving Juice: Filtration.

Filtering strains out the yeast from the grape juice. Without yeast in it to ferment, juice cannot be made alcoholic. People of Bible times usually filtered the juice more than once.

Filtration is used by some winemakers today when they want to stop fermentation in their wine. The filter pads have pores so tiny they can remove yeast and bacteria as the wine strains through them. The pads also collect chemicals.

Dr. Patton's research makes clear that filtering was used in ancient times to take out the yeast before the juice fermented. Writers who lived before Christ used strong words to express what filtering did to the juice. They said it castrated the juice. Plutarch, born A.D. 60 said, “Wine is rendered old and feeble in strength when it is frequently filtered. The strength or spirit thus excluded, the wine neither inflames the brain nor infests the mind and the passions and is much more pleasant to drink.”1

“The most useful wine,” wrote Pliny in the first century A.D., “has all its force or strength broken by the filter.” He went on to explain that the force or strength of the juice was the alcohol. The filter took out the yeast and prevented fermentation.2

Horace, who lived before Pliny, 65 – 8 B.C., wrote that the ancients filtered their wine repeatedly before it could have fermented.3 Some people, because they could drink so much without fear of intoxication, Pliny tells us, misused the filtered juice. They made themselves vomit so they could drink more.

Captain Treat was on the south coast of Italy in 1845. He found that the unfermented wines were the most popular wines. The juice was filtered two or three times, put in bottles, and then buried in the earth or kept under water. Here we note again the combination of excluding the air with the filtering for preserving the wine fresh.4

A Third Method of Preserving Juice: Settling or Subsidence

Juice will stay sweet if the method of settling is used. The temperature of the juice must be dropped to 40 degrees F. or lower. Yeast can not work or ferment well when it is so cool. Because it is heavier than the juice, it settles to the bottom. Then the clear juice can be drawn off the top. This clear juice even if warmed, will not ferment.5

Pliny wrote about wine that was always sweet and was produced with care. Immediately after being filled from the vat of fresh juice, the casks were plunged into water and kept there till midwinter passed and regular cold weather set in. Since the juice was kept below 40 degrees F., the yeast settled to the bottom and the wine did not ferment. Columella's recipe (first century A.D.) added powdered iris to the juice. “This wine,” he said, “will be sweet, firm or durable, and healthy to the body.”6

Cato's recipe (200 years before Christ) says to put the grape juice in an amphora (a tall bottle with a narrow neck and base and two handles), seal the stopper with pitch and sink it in the pond. Take it out after thirty days; it will remain sweet the whole year.7

In each recipe the yeast was allowed to settle. Sometimes the juice was filtered after the yeast settled, or the jar was sealed to exclude air. In one recipe oil was poured on top of the juice and a bag of spices placed where the juice met the oil. After nine days the yeast had settled and the oil was poured off. The spices were pounded and replaced. The oil was put back on for seven days. Then it was drawn off and the juice left pure and unfermented.

Yolks of pigeon eggs caused the yeast to settle too. Often the juice was moved from container to container as the yeast settled out. In these recipes we see several methods of preserving juice sweet combined.8

A Fourth Method of Preserving Juice: Fumigation

Fumigate means to expose to the action of fumes. Sulphur fumes absorb oxygen and prevent the yeast from working. Jars were filled nearly full with fresh unfermented grape juice. Then sulphur was burned in the empty part. While the fumes of the sulphur dioxide were still in the jar, it was sealed. 9

Sometimes the fresh juice was put in casks or jars that had been treated with sulphur fumes. In Nott's London Edition, page 82 of the London Encyclopedia, an unfermented wine is called “stum”. To keep it from fermenting, brimstone was burned in the casks. Brimstone is sulphur.10

Pliny tells us that the Romans also mixed egg yolks and other sulphur containing materials with the must. When the yeast settled, the juice was poured off from the dregs (settlings). It was put into smaller casks, bunged or stopped up and covered with pitch.11

Miller's Gardener's Dictionary recipe (about 1868) for sweet wine says that the new wine or must should be sealed in very strong, small casks, “but if it should happen to fall into fermentation, the only way to stop it is by the fumes of sulphur.”12 Notice that sealing air out stopped the fermentation in the fresh must. But if fermentation began, the sulphur fumes would stop it.

Mr. T. S. Carr, in Kitto's, Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, 1845, told about a fumarium, a chimney or vent for sulphur fumes. He said it was used to mellow wines and that the use of the fumes would continue until the wine “was reduced to the state of syrup.”13

Horace wrote about a jar of fumigated wine that was corked and fastened with pitch. “A hundred glasses of it might be drunk without clamor or passion.14

From our study we know that sulphur was used to preserve juice sweet in ancient times. But sulphur has been helpful to alcoholic winemakers too. Modern winemakers kill yeast and bacteria in juice before it is fermented with sulphur dioxide. Then they can add a good strain of yeast to the juice. They also use sulphur if they wish to stop fermentation at a certain stage and if they want to kill bacteria after the juice is fermented.


Dr. Teachout tells us, “Even though Scripture does not mention what means were used in Old Testament Israel to preserve it, the Bible does attest that God's people did have the commodity of unfermented grape juice all year long.”15

King David appointed Zabdi as overseer of the cellars where the vineyard's harvest was stored, (I Chronicles 27:27). Grape juice was used all year long for the continual sacrifice to God. In Nehemiah 10:37 – 39 the tithes of grain, juice and oil were brought to rooms in the temple.16

Dr. Teachout's translation of Proverbs 3:9 – 10  is, “Honor Yahweh (God) out of your harvested abundance. Yea, honor Him with the first fruits of all your produce; Then your granaries will be filled with plenty, And your juice reservoirs will overflow with grape juice (tirosh).” The word for reservoir implies a storehouse.

James R. Pritchard found 63 storage wine vats when he excavated the ancient city of Gibeon (see Joshua 9). These vats could hold 25,000 gallons. After filtering the wine was stored in large jars sealed with olive oil in cool cellars. Pritchard tried a month long experiment. He found the cellars would keep fermented wine that had been sealed with olive oil from turning to vinegar. The same method could be used for preserving unfermented grape juice.17

God does not give us the process for preserving juice fresh in the Bible. But neither does He tell how the people manufactured intoxicating wine. He does tell us the juice was stored and that it was used for the sacrifices all year long.


Everyone who helped to preserve the harvest juice had to know some way (boiling, filtering, settling or fumigating) to stop the yeast and bacteria from working. While they obeyed God, the Israelites wanted to keep the juice sweet for tithes and offerings and for their own use.

It is hard for us to think of calling this juice “wine.” Dr. Patton gives us an example of the problem of “same names for two things.” Fresh apple juice can be called apple cider. After it has fermented it is also called cider. If we take fresh juice, add sulphur and make the barrel air tight, and keep it where it is cold, we will cause the yeast to settle. Then we can draw off the pure unfermented juice and bottle it. And we can still call it cider.

Just as one word, cider, stands for the juice of the apple in all its stages, Hebrew yayin, Greek oinos, Latin vinum and English wine stand for both sweet grape juice and fermented wine. This is a fact in all these languages that is often overlooked. Careful Bible scholars have noted it; careless scholars have not!


Facts from History

We do not have to be confused by the argument, even though it comes from Bible teachers and pastors, that “It was impossible to keep grape juice sweet without modern methods.” These Bible teachers speak without taking time to study. They do not know what the Greek and Roman historians have so carefully written down about themselves and the customs of their day.

Dr. Teachout says that Cato, (200 years before Christ), Virgil (70 years before Christ), Pliny, and Columella (first century A.D.), among others, were some of the most important writers and historians of their age. They were very well known and honored men. The methods and recipes they have written down explain step by step how to keep juice sweet for a year or more. Columella, after telling in detail about boiling “must”, says that if it is done correctly it will “keep good forever.”18 The records of these men prove that people in their day knew how to preserve whole grape juice unfermented.

As you read this section of our study, think how often the old writers used the word wine for sweet juice. Greeks and Romans, as well as Hebrews, called the fresh juice wine. For example, Pliny's recipe for preserving juice was found in a section of his writing on the kinds of wine available in his day. This means that the sweet unfermented preserved juice was considered one type of wine. Pliny said some Roman wines were as thick as honey. Albanian wine was very sweet and luscious. He also listed a Spanish wine called a sober wine which was not intoxicating.

Nicander wrote about squeezing fresh juice into hollow cups and calling it wine. Columella spoke of wine that would not intoxicate. Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.) told about sweet wine that would not intoxicate. Horace (65 – 8 B.C.) wrote of fumigated wine and said a hundred glasses might be drunk “without clamor or passion.” Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C.) said, “Sweet kinds of wines do not make the head heavy.”19

In 1808, the U.S. ambassador to France and his secretary, Judge Swift, were in a shipwreck off the coast of Spain. As they traveled to France through Spain, they were given a wine to drink. They experimented and found it had a wonderful flavor and was very refreshing. It was absolutely nonintoxicating.20

Roman Women Did Not Drink Alcoholic Wine

Roman women were strictly forbidden to drink intoxicating wines, but they were allowed to have boiled wine. Polybius (a historian 200 years before Christ) said the Roman women drank passum. This is an unfermented drink made from raisins. It was considered to taste as good as fresh must. Plato (about 427 – 347 B.C.), Aristotle, Plutarch (about 46 – 120 A.D.) and others had noticed the unhealthy effect of alcohol on children.21

The Jews

The Mishna, a review of Jewish Law written down about 200 A.D., says the Jews were in the habit of using boiled wine. Some Jewish Rabbis have sanctioned the use of alcoholic wine in the last several hundred years.22 Today fermented wine may be used at Passover. But in his work called Midrash Yayin, Koplowitz tells us that an earnest and intelligent investigation in the volumes of Israel's literature will convince you beyond a doubt that the Hebrew prophets and many Talmudic Rabbins spoke out strongly for prohibition.23

Three Statements We Can Make

There have always been men in every age who have loved and used intoxicating drinks. The authors mentioned in our lesson were famous writers and historians who moved in the best circles of society. Their recipes and instructions for keeping juice sweet prove that the people of their day highly prized sweet grape juice. And they called the preserved juice wine.

After studying how to preserve juice without fermentation and what the writers of ancient times said, we can make three statements:

  1. That unfermented beverages existed, and were a common drink among the ancients.
  2. That to preserve their very sweet juices in a hot climate, they boiled them or used other methods to separate the yeast from the juice.
  3. That these preserved sweet juices were called wines; they were popular and widely used.


All through Bible times thick juices had to be diluted to drink them. Boiled down grape juice wine that had to be scraped from the wineskin and wine that was thick like honey needed to be mixed with water. Captain Treat says, “The unfermented wine is esteemed the most in the south of Italy, and wine is drunk mixed with water.”24

History, especially during later Old Testament times, shows that fermented wines were diluted too. Dr. Teachout says it was the Greek and Roman way to drink in moderation.

Hesiod (8th Century B.C.) wrote that during summer months the wine should be thinned to three parts water for one of wine. Homer (8th Century B.C.) said some wines needed twenty parts water to one of wine, and Hippocrates (460 – 370 B.C.) agreed with him. Dr. Bacchiocchi believes it is reasonable to think that the wines that took the most water were boiled down juices. No drinker would want alcoholic wine that was 95% water.25

In Rome and other cities of the Roman Empire, thermopoliums were built for public use. A thermopolium had cold, warm and tepid water ready for use. People went there to drink and also sent their servants for hot water. It was often necessary to use hot water to dissolve very thick boiled down old juices.26

Grape juice mixed with water is different from the mixture of intoxicating wine and possibly drugs in Psalm 75:8. In this verse, wine full of mixture is used as a symbol of God's vengeance, prepared for His enemies. In Proverbs 9:2, mixed grape juice (wine) is called a blessing to which friends are invited. This juice may have had spices added or may have been a thick juice with water added, but it did not fire the blood with alcohol.

In Book 2 , lesson 5 of Alcohol in the Bible we will study the argument that God approves of intoxicating wine if it is diluted with water. This is not true. There is no scripture to back this view.


  1. Dr. William Patton, Bible Wines, Sane Press, Okla. City, p.34.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., p.35.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., p.36.
  6. Ibid., p.37.
  7. Dr. Robert Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, Doctoral Dissertation for Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979, p.397.
  8. Patton, Bible Wines, p.38.
  9. Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, Biblical Perspective, Berrien Springs, Michigan, 1989, p.126.
  10. Patton, Bible Wines, p.40.
  11. Ibid., p.39.
  12. Ibid., p.40.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid., p.43.
  15. Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, p.402.
  16. Dr. Teachout gives more information on Hebrew words about storage in his dissertation in appendix F.
  17. Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, pp.125, 126.
  18. Teachout, Use of Wine in the Old Testament, p.399
  19. Patton, Bible Wines, pp.40-43.
  20. Ibid., p.44.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Dr. Butrus Abd-Al-Malik, Professor of Semitic Languages and Middle East History as quoted by David DePew, Radio Host for “Seed of Abraham” Bible Study, and Patricia DePew, Director of Education, Southern California WCTU, 551 S. Kingsley Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90020.
  23. Teachout, The Use of Wine in the Old Testament, p.402.
  24. Patton, Bible Wines, p.50 and Teachout, The Use of Wine, P.60.
  25. Bacchiocchi, Wine in the Bible, p.118.
  26. Patton, Bible Wines, p.51.





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