I know now why wine is so expensive. Because it takes forever to make! I already knew in theory that it was a long process but it really hit home for me in a new way this past week.
I was visiting an old friend who planted his own vineyard in the last couple years. I was looking forward to trying out some of his wine. But he informed me he didn’t have any wine yet. He didn’t even have any grapes! Next year would be his first crop of grapes which he can then harvest. Awesome! Then I can try some next year! Nope. It has to ferment and be stored in a barrel for another year or so, and then in the bottle. You mean I have to wait 5-7 years to taste this wine?!
It really struck me what an investment it is to make wine, and what a long and specific process it is. And all the scriptures I’d heard over and over about Jesus being the vine and how He prunes us to bear fruit came flooding into my mind - but this time with a new perspective. Our spiritual growth — our sanctification — takes years and years to cultivate, in much the same way it takes years to make good wine.
John 15:1-5, 8 NIV
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing… 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.
In the early stages of growing a vineyard, the years before the first harvest are crucial. Special care has to be taken to protect and nourish the young vines. There needs to be just the right amount of water, pruning, and protection from pests and disease. The newly planted baby vines are often covered with a carton to provide warmth and extra protection.
Are you in your early stages of your walk with Jesus? Take care. You might need a little extra precaution in this season: help in resisting temptation from your past relationships and behaviors, safety and protection from any people opposing your choice to believe, or a little encouragement and warmth to keep you growing since it’s a long road ahead until you might even begin to see some fruits.
After a few years, the young vines lay dormant, but are ready to fruit. They need pruning - specific trimming and cutting of the branches to ensure the right balance of shoots and buds. Pruning is an essential step in the wine-making process. If a vine is not pruned correctly, it won’t produce high quality grapes, and without high quality grapes, the winemaker can’t make high quality wine.
There are many areas of our lives that need pruning and reshaping and remodeling. If we are seeking after God, He will cut out parts of our lives that don’t bring His goodness into our lives and the lives of those around us. He will cut and snip here, snap off a branch there - all to find the perfect balance of character.
Pruning is not fun. It hurts. It’s tedious. But it must be done. And often during this time we still can’t see or taste the fruit — the goodness — that is to come.
Is the Lord pruning you? Is He asking you to cut things out of your life, to add more of Him? What parts of you is He reshaping? Can you see where the balance of your character and your spirit is headed? Do you need patience in this process? Humility and submission to the Master Winemaker?
The time has come to gather the grapes! Hooray! But not so fast… We still don’t have wine!
Once the grapes are harvested (and it’s been at least three years since we planted our wee vines) they are crushed, pressed, and fermented. Some wines will be ready in a few months, others will need another year or two, depending on the type of grape harvested and wine desired.
Are you a Chardonnay? A Pinot Noir? A Cabernet? Each of us bear different fruit — different characteristics and gifts and traits — so each of us will have different pruning, harvesting and fermentation processes. You might be ready in a few months, You might need a few more years for your whole self to be fully ready. Wherever we are in the process, each wine has a unique flavor and each of us has a specific journey of growth and harvest that the Master Winemaker knows intimately and tends tenderly.
Interestingly, once the wine is bottled, it’s still fermenting and aging and growing. Wine is not ever a final product but is always in process.
Our spiritual lives with God are like that, too. Even if we’ve been through all these steps, years into our spiritual harvest and living out the goodness He desires for all of us, the process is not done. We are still growing. Our gifts, our talents, our character, our understanding — they’re all still aging in the bottle of our souls, getting better and better with time.
What’s more, we could be in all of these stages at once. Perhaps one area of our lives has just been planted while another is being pruned and yet another in full harvest. We are constantly in process. And this process takes time. A lifetime. But it’s worth the wait, it’s worth the toil. And if we don’t fight it or rush it, but rather trust that the Master Winemaker knows what He’s doing, we can’t help but become a delicious bottle of wine.