How is wine related to charity? Although we may think of consuming wine as something simply pleasant and enjoyable, Jesus used it as an image of his sacrifice. He asked his disciples, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” (Mt 20:22). This cup of his passion took shape during the Last Supper, when we offered his own blood to establish the new covenant. He then hinted that he would continue to share this cup after his Passion: “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mk 14:25). He now offers his blood to us, the true fruit of the vine, to us at Mass, the celebration of the kingdom.
Jesus gives us his charity in the Eucharist, when he infuses his charity into us, giving us communion with him and others. The drinking of the Lord’s blood at Mass should extend into the celebration of the great holy days as we gather with family and friends. We should follow Paul’s advice in our festivity: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We should drink in a way that gives glory to God, rather than being a cause of shame. Drinking in genuine friendship and festivity should promote Christian charity.
As a sign of proper Catholic drinking and an expression of charity, we bless wine during the octave of Christmas, on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 27. The prayer used on this day in the Roman Ritual honors God for sparing St. John from poisoned wine. It also asks that the wine blessed may promote health in body and soul: “Bless, O Lord, this drink which Thou hast created, that it may be a salutary remedy for all who partake of it, and grant that all who taste of it may, by invoking Thy holy name, receive health for body and soul.”
We also see wine’s relation to charity in the life of the monks — the great guardian angels of wine making — needed, of course, for the celebration of Mass. France emerged as an important center, with Cistercians perfecting the terroir of Burgundy and the popes laying down famous vineyards surrounding Avignon. The first of these papal vineyards came from Pope Clement V in 1309 on the foothills of Mt. Ventoux in the Rhône region. The monks and nuns of the Abbey of Le Barroux have revitalized this ancient vineyard and have begun a cooperative with local growers named Via Caritatis, the way of charity, which they describe as “characterized by mutual service, generosity, and sharing,” in “faithful continuation of the profound legacy we inherited.”
It is always beautiful when ancient things are restored to their pristine beauty. In this case, the monks of Le Barroux have revitalized the primordial bond between monk and vine in the rocky and sun-drenched terrain of the Ventoux region. They offer three reds from their vineyards and each one has both the quality and the distinctiveness of the grapes grown in the Ventoux, Syrah and Grenache. I hosted a winetasting at my house to experience these wines, led by my friend Cameron Henderson, a former wine importer and friar, who helped write the following review.
Vox Angelorum is a blend with Syrah as the predominant partner at 60%. With an inky dark hue, before the wine hits the palate, you can tell this wine will be robust and full bodied, rich in the spice box flavors that come with Syrah. Well balanced and powerful, it carries notes of black fruit combined with the black pepper that is typical of this grape. Although powerful, there are no rough edges, and this wine would pair beautifully with roasted red meats and hearty sides.
Pax in Terra is aged 18 months and has flipped the grapes with Grenache being the predominant partner at 60%. Grenache is a fleshier and softer grape than Syrah and thus this wine has a predominance of red fruit flavors with strawberry jam and a hint of the Syrah “backbone.” Also, full bodied and rich, it too would pair nice with red meat but also might lend itself to white meats.
The Lux Amoris is their flagship wine, with ageing in oak barrels for part of the production. It has a predominance of Syrah, but whereas the Vox Angelorum shows Syrah in its raw force, the barrel ageing in the Lux Amoris has softened the tannins and offers a beautiful aromatic nose, combined with red fruit and the vanilla tones derived from the oak. No doubt, taken from older vines, it has well integrated notes of “garrigue” (rosemary, thyme, sage), typical of Rhone wines.
Each of these wines have independent personalities but they have the same imprint of coming from a family, and this family seems to be a strong, rich, and expressive form of the Ventoux, a region producing wine as far back as 600 B.C. It is a pleasure to know that the monks have revitalized their relationship with the land and are producing wines of such excellent qualities. They make them both as an expression of charity coming from our Lord’s own use of the vine as a symbol of his passion and from their communion with the community surrounding their abbey. You can find their wines at viacaritatis.us.