Christians around the world will be celebrating Easter this Sunday, the day when tradition says that Jesus rose from the dead three days after his crucifixion. According to the Bible, the night before his death, he gathered his inner circle, the 12 men known as his disciples, for a Passover meal. That meal has become known as the Last Supper.
Even those unfamiliar with the details of the meal and the days that followed are probably familiar with Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper." In da Vinci's masterpiece, Jesus is reaching for bread with his left hand and wine with his right hand. Symbolically, according to Luke 22:19-20, the bread and the wine represent the sacrifice that Jesus will make the next day on the cross. He tells his disciples the bread represents his body, which will be broken. The wine represents his blood, which will be shed.
The bread and wine were not only symbolic; they were bread and wine that would have been eaten during a Passover meal. The bread at a Passover meal would have been unleavened bread, but what kind of wine would have been served at the Last Supper?
The makers of the Vivino wine app wanted to know the answer to this question, so they went to religious expert Father Daniel Kendall of University of San Francisco and Dr. Patrick McGovern, scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum — and better known as the Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages.
Their best-educated guess is that the wine would have been similar to modern-day Amarone, an Italian red wine made from grapes that have been dried before fermentation. It's basically wine made from raisins.
Grapes drying into raisins to be used in making Amarone. (Photo: Tommasi Family/flickr)
Kendall and McGovern provided other details about the wine of Jesus' time and the type of wine that would have been served at The Last Supper:
- Winemaking was present since at least 4000 BC in Jerusalem. Vintners planted vines along rocky hillsides and carved out vats in the bedrock to serve as wine presses.
- The people of Jerusalem preferred rich, concentrated wines and were critical of watering down wine, which was common practice at the time.
- Wine was strong and frequently mixed with spices, fruits and especially tree resin as winemakers believed myrrh, frankincense and terebinth preserved wine and prevented spoilage.
- The Last Supper took place during Passover, so the wine would have needed to pair well with traditional Seder fare.
To create a DIY version of a Last Supper wine, Vivino suggests adding a few drops of tree resin oil to a bottle of Amarone or adding pomegranates, saffron and cinnamon to spice up Amarone's flavor.
If you want to give this a try — perhaps to create an authentic Holy Communion experience or just out of curiosity — here are some Amarone wines that earned high ratings from Vivino users:
- Santa Sofia Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2007
- Speri Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto Monte Sant'Urbano 2006
- Latium Morini Campo León Amarone della Valpolicella 2008
- Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009