Taken literally, a choice wine is a wine that you would choose above all others. In a Bahá’í context, the phrase “choice wine” is probably best known from its use near the beginning of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, where Bahá’u’lláh issues this warning:
Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight!
In the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Bahá’u’lláh uses this same metaphor in an admonition to the Epistle’s recipient, Shaykh Muhammad Taqi:
O Shaykh! Verily I say, the seal of the Choice Wine hath, in the name of Him Who is the Self-Subsisting, been broken; withhold not thyself therefrom.
Volume 4 of the book “The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh” gives an explanation of this metaphor, which I’ll quote here:
‘The seal of the Choice Wine hath…been broken.’ The reference to choice wine, sealed, may be found in the Qur’án (see 83:22-6). The significance of ‘sealed’ is that the true meanings of the Words of God in former Dispensations were not disclosed until the advent of Bahá’u’lláh (see vol. 1, pp. 160-61, on this prophecy of Daniel). The unsealing of the Choice Wine signifies the revelation of the Word of God in this age, disclosing to mankind new teachings and new laws. Bahá’u’lláh declares in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ‘Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay rather We have unsealed the Choice Wine with the fingers of might and power.’ [The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶5]
So, tl;dr: It’s not literally wine, but a figurative wine that symbolizes the Word of God for this age, which Bahá’u’lláh has revealed.
Another question coming from Reddit here, this time from the /r/AskReligion subreddit: “Why do some people believe all religions are equal?” And this one has a pretty simple answer, at least, from a Bahá’í perspective.
Bahá’ís believe that all the world’s great religions are, in fact, one religion that has been revealed progressively over time by different Manifestations of one and the same God—Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh.
The fact that these Manifestations have differed from each other doesn’t mean that God changed; instead, it means that they each revealed God’s word in a way that was suited to the capacity and to the reality of the people to whom they appeared. The fact that the great religions differ from one another, then, is due to them being revealed at different times to different peoples, as well as to the rituals that human beings have built up around the essential spiritual message they were given.
This is why you’ll often hear Bahá’ís talk about all the great religions being paths to God: They’ve all been part of a long process of education that has spanned all of human history, and that will continue into the future.
The order you read them in kind of depends on your own background and what you’re interested in, but a good place to start is with Bahá’u’lláh’s Hidden Words, which is like a distillation of the spiritual teachings that lie at the core of all of the world’s great religions.
If you have a strong mystical bent, you might want to follow that up with Bahá’u’lláh’s Seven Valleys and Four Valleys, or Gems of Divine Mysteries. Both of these are essentially letters to individuals who had asked about certain spiritual truths, such as the path taken by a soul on its spiritual journey.
If you’re really interested in Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings on the evolution of religion throughout history, and His interpretation of past religious prophecies, you should definitely read the Book of Certitude, aka the Kitáb-i-Íqán. I’ve known a lot of people who’ve started learning about the Bahá’í Faith through this book; it really delivers some penetrating spiritual insights.
As I see it, the most potent antidote to a rising tide of hate and violence is to help yourself and others around you—especially young people—to raise their capacity to show spiritual qualities such as love, kindness, steadfastness, justice, reliance on God and compassion, and to serve humanity selflessly.
Get involved in a junior youth group and give young people a space where they can learn what it means to transform themselves and their community at the same time. Or get involved as a teacher of children’s classes so you can give younger children the spiritual foundation they’ll need to become agents of change within their communities. Work with a teaching team so that you don’t burn yourself out, and so that you can coordinate your actions with others.
It’s important that we not underestimate the uplifting and transforming power of these seemingly simple acts of service. Carried out consistently, persistently, and with a spirit of service, they can completely change the face of our communities—not only Baha’i communities, but the greater community.
If you want to see what this can eventually lead to, check out the Frontiers of Learning video. In particular, the section from Colombia brings me a lot of hope, but all of them show the transforming power of collective action within the framework of the Plan.