I recently attended a wine tasting party. Always the liturgist, the more I tasted, the more reverie: “hmm a Vidal ice wine would be nice for Winter Ordinary Time; this strong dark Meritage is perfect for Lent and the River Gold, why it has Easter Vigil written all over it!” Luckily I made a switch to 7 Up and my reverie faded.
The Gospel speaks of Jesus’ turning water into the very best of wine. Surely the wine we use at Eucharist must also be special, perhaps from a monastery vineyard in the Italian hills, where nuns stomp the grapes into juice. Actually the directives after Vatican II are quite basic. Canon Law states “any wine may be consecrated provided it is pure, unspoiled wine made from grapes.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) adds, “The wine for the eucharistic celebration must be from the fruit of the grapevine (cf. Lk 22:18), natural, and unadulterated, that is, without admixture of extraneous substances.”
Sacramental wine may be white or red, weak or strong, sweet or dry with labels of Burgundy, Chablis, Haute Sauterne, Angelica or simply “Altar Wine.”
Most parishes find it prudent to order wine from a local religious goods store. These vendors purchase sacramental wine from suppliers throughout the world, some as small as the New York O-Neh-Da vineyard which was founded in 1872 by Bishop Bernard McQuaid and is the oldest still-producing vineyard founded for sacramental wine production in the United States. Larger wineries that have a special division for sacramental wines include Cribari, Guasti and Christian Brothers.
When we gather for liturgy everything is simply “there.” We give little thought to how the bread, wine or candles got there, or that they actually cost money. A 12-bottle case of wine from O-Neh-Da runs approximately $55. In my parish one case will last us a little over two weeks. The cost of wine is usually an operating expense on the parish budget. Some parishes in our diocese make provisions, that since the bread and wine are to be the gift of the people, special significance can be given to its purchase. Parishioners are given the opportunity to donate the cost of the bread and wine for one weekend in memory of a loved one or in honor of a special occasion.
The next time we gather for liturgy let us keep in prayer those who grow and harvest the grapes, those who produce and deliver sacramental wine, “the fruit of the vine, the work of human hands.”
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh. She has a master’s degree in liturgical studies.