One of the concerns of the Gemara on our daf is whether kiddush and havdala must be done with a cup of wine, or if other alcoholic beverages might be substituted for the wine. The idea that certain religious ceremonies are to be accompanied by wine is not only based on the tradition in the Land of Israel during Talmudic times, but is also evident in the connection between many religious ceremonies and the Temple service. The only libation on the Temple altar was wine (with the notable exception of water during Sukkot), and the songs that accompanied the service were sung while the wine was poured. No other drink – no matter how outstanding – can be compared to this. The idea of substituting other drinks, referred to in the Gemara as Hamar Medina – “the wine of this land” – stems from the following story, related on our daf:
The Gemara relates that the Mar Yanuka, the younger Mar, and Mar Kashisha, the elder Mar, both sons of Rav Hisda, said to Rav Ashi: Once Ameimar happened to come to our place and we did not have wine for havdala. We brought him beer and he did not recite havdala, and he passed the night fasting, as it is prohibited to eat before havdala. The next day we exerted ourselves and brought him wine, and he recited havdala and tasted some food. The next year he again happened to come to our place. Once again we did not have wine and we brought him beer. He said: If so, if it is so difficult to obtain wine in your place, beer is the wine of the province [Hamar Medina]. He recited havdala over the beer and tasted some food.
The Gemara derives three rules from this story:
Even after making havdala during the evening prayers, one must make it again accompanied by a cup of wine (or its equivalent)
One cannot eat before making havdala on the cup
Someone who did not make havdala on Saturday night can make it later on during the week.
This issue of wine vs. other drinks is open to discussion even today. The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 272:9) quotes a difference of opinion on the halakha. One opinion allows the use of Hamar Medina for kiddush; others permit the use of bread if no wine is available. With regard to havdala, if wine is not readily available Hamar Medina can be used, but bread cannot (Orah Hayyim 296:2).