The Suffering Grape

Once I stepped on a grape, and it gave out a little whine. But never I did I imagine it had suffered.

I was watching a bit of a travel episode on Rick Stevens’ Europe show the other day. It does get a little annoying to see how much fun he’s having sometimes. As I was sweltering in my living room, he was sitting on a chair in a boat on the river, sipping wine, and the lovely breeze was blowing his hair. What a nice gig, I thought! as I wiped the upper lip sweat from face, and tried to get my hair up in a ponytail.

Rick went to a vineyard in the region of Burgundy. Wines in France are not named after the grape from which they are made, but for the particular region from which they come. Each area has a particular blend of soils that produces a unique flavor in the grape. Even a few hundred yards can create a whole different tasting grape.

When Rick remarked on the soil there, and he said, “This doesn’t look like good soil for growing.” I agreed. The soil was light brown, (much like the picture below) and looked nothing like the futile, jet black soil in the midwest bread-basket of the USA, like Iowa, where millions of acres produce abundant crops.

“No,” the vineyard expert said.

She said that the soil has to be bad. The grape has to work very hard to get the good from the soil to become its best, to become sweet, and to become just right for the most amazing and flavorful wine. She said, “The grapes have to suffer!”

It seems to be one of the most incredibly common notions that struggle and suffering is bad, or negative.I know I don’t like it much. Yet, when has anything truly good come to fruition without struggle? Putting someone through suffering is a  wholly different matter, and I stress that we mustn’t ever assume the role of victimizer, to produce good in someone or not. Here, I speak instead about our personal perspective on our own suffering and struggle.

It’s easy to think, “Oh no ,something is totally wrong!” when we suffer, or that good isn’t being created in or around us, somehow, in the midst of it all. Some suffering is unavoidable, like sickness, or accidents. In those times, maybe we can remember the suffering grape who can never be a fine vintage without being planted in poor, harsh,ill-suited soil. It works hard to find the nutrients it needs, but alas, it does find the goodness to be healthy, and sweet. All this time I thought the only grapes that suffered were just the raisins!

Are you suffering? Take encouragement in this story. Leave a comment if you’d like.

The picture below is under a Creative Commons license from photographer “focalplane” at Flickr (image). Note the photograph’s interesting information from the artist below. 

French grapes

Photographer’s notes:

Within the Coteaux de Languedoc Cru “La Clape” near Fleury. 
Geologically this is an interesting area with soils derived from both volcanics and limestones, so the terroir, also influenced by proximity to the sea, makes for interesting wines, both red and white.
These photos were taken on the road between Fleury and the coast.

4 responses to “The Suffering Grape

  1. Lisa,

    You are so right! For a vine to produce grapes that are the most flavorful, it must struggle a little. Conditions too severe for other crops–too hot and too dry–force the vine to send it’s roots deep into the earth for sustenance. Too much water, and the grapes are big and beautiful, but their flavor is diluted and will produce poor quality wine.
    An excellent picture of the fruit of struggle in the Christian’s life as well as the deceptive outward appearances of fruit born of ease. We all get squeezed at some point. With God as the Vintner, the fruit of our lives will be sweet and flavorful.

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