All wine is ‘not’ suitable for Eucharist


Sacramental altar wine used to need ecclesiastical approval.

It sort of still does.

In 1995 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided that, “Given the more frequent practice of Holy Communion under both kinds, it seems opportune to assure priests that it is no longer necessary always to use ‘ecclesiastically approved’ wine”.

A widespread practice developed using table wines purchased in supermarkets and liquor outlets for use in the Eucharist.

The Bishops did not say that all wines can be used.

Caulton urged

After seeking advice from the New Zealand Wine Institute, in 1993 Canon Lawyer Fr Michael O’Dea concluded that in general, most New Zealand table wines fitted the canonical criteria.

However, Fr O’Dea warned, because of possible additives there is a need to be cautious, especially about the use of cask wine.

He noted, altar wine must be the pure fermented juice of the grape, and, for example, Port and Sherry, cannot be used.

Today, Mission Estate’s winemaker Paul Mooney broadens the caution.

He says a wide variety of additives may be used during the process of winemaking in New Zealand; concluding some wines possibly do not fit the canonical criteria.

Letter from Rome

A recent letter to Bishops from the Vatican department responsible for the sacraments asked all bishops to “watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials.”

The letter was simply a reminder to bishops; a call to vigilance.

It established no new criteria.

For many years in New Zealand much of the wine used for sacramental purposes was made by Mission Vineyards in Hawkes Bay.

Established in the 1850’s the Mission produced table wine for the French fathers and brothers, and altar wine for the celebration of the Eucharist.

Some 170 years on Mission Estate Winery now sells its table wine, but still provides a reasonably priced altar wine which is somewhat sweet through the presence of residual sugar and ‘stable’ for at least a week after opening.

Mooney says the Mission’s altar wine sales suffered as a result of the change in policy made in the 1990’s.

However in a statement to CathNews, he said Mission has checked its processes with the Vatican and obtained approval for any additives used in its winemaking.

He says that if people want to be sure about the validity of the wine they use for the Eucharist they can confidently use Mission Altar wine.


  • Supplied: NZCBC. Paul Mooney
  • Image: Te Ara
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News category: New Zealand.

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