Student members of the Ave Maria University wine club talk with Roger Scruton at the Club’s first meeting of the new school year.   After commending the Club for its name, which “suggests a certain discipline in the drinking of wine, when, for so many students, wine drinking leads to insanitas,” Scruton gave a brief talk on the role of the imagination and the importance of place and locality for drinking wine.

The wines featured at this meeting contrasted Old World (France) with New (California): Chardonnay (Avenel Cellars RRV 2012, Ropiteau 2012); Pinot Noir (Ch. Linesman Haut-Medoc 2009 vs Martin Ray Santa Barbara 2012), and Cabernet Sauvignon (Ch Mercy Rouge 2010 vs. Joseph Carr Napa 2012).

As Faculty Advisor to the Club, I offered the following toast:

John Haldane the biologist, not the philosopher, was once asked what he had learned about God from his extensive study of physical nature. “What I learned,” Haldane said, “is that the Deity has an inordinate fondness for beetles.” It turns out that there are over 800,000 known species of beetle. Thus the knowledge of God attained through natural religion.

Christians who have the advantage of revelation can also discern the works of God in his providential history and, especially, in the miraculous acts of God’s son. You remember for instance the wedding feast of Cana, where, the apostle John reports, Christ changed into wine the water contained in 6 stone jars each holding about 30 gallons – which works out to about 720 bottles. If we ask what we can learn about God from observing that kind of work, one is tempted to say, swirled tongue in cheek, that he has an inordinate fondness for bottles … of wine.

In the old dispensation, we know, the first thing created was light, with the majestic words, Fiat lux. In the new dispensation, the new creation, the first created thing just about was wine, lots and lots of wine. Yet here we perhaps see new evidence for the fittingness of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Although 740 bottles of wine are splendid indeed, they are not fittingly the first among creatures. But the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception assures us that the first act of salvation of the Lord was retroactive, the creation of that pure and simple being, Mary, to whom it was left to get the rest of the New Creation going with those plain words, oinon ouk echousin, “they have no more wine.”

So whenever wine is poured in abundance, as this evening, let us remember that Virgin Mother, and her attentive Son, and give thanks for the New Creation intimated so beautifully in the gift of wine.