From Christ’s first miracle at the Wedding at Cana to being made into the blood of the New Covenant at the Last Supper, it is no secret that wine has played an integral part in Christianity. From the earliest celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, the drink was used in celebration of the Eucharist. However, not all wines are acceptable for use. What kind of wine can be used for consecration?
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” – 1 Corinthians 10:16
Throughout the centuries, various guidelines and criteria were laid down concerning the specifics of wine appropriate for use in the celebration of the Eucharist. The earliest Church teachings on the requirements both bread and wine in the Eucharist come from the papal bull De Defectibus signed in ratifying the Council of Trent.
“If the wine has become mere vinegar, or is completely bad, or if it has been made from sour or unripe grapes, or if so much water has been mixed with it that the wine is adulterated, there is no Sacrament.” – De Defectibus, tit. IV, 1
On August 5th, 1896 further guidelines were laid down in a directive by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding additives derived from wine.
“To conserve weak and feeble wines, and in order to keep them from souring or spoiling during transportation, a small quantity of spirits of wine (grape brandy or alcohol) may be added, provided the following conditions are observed:
• The added spirit must have been distilled from the grape (ex genimime vitis).
• The quantity of alcohol added, together with that which the wine contained naturally after fermentation, must not exceed eighteen per cent of the whole.
• The addition must be made during the process of fermentation.”
In 1983, the requirements were formalized within the Code of Canon law.
“The most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be celebrated … in wine to which a small quantity of water is to be added. The wine must be natural from the fruit of the vine and not spoiled.” – Code of Canon Law §1,3
The latest Church teachings regarding Eucharistic matter requirements comes from the 2004 document Redemptionis Sacramentum by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
“The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances. During the celebration itself, a small quantity of water is to be mixed with it. Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured.” – Redemptionis Sacramentum, Ch. 3, 1
Whats the boiled down version of the various requirements laid down over the years? Any commercially produced wine (red, white, rosé) is acceptable so long as it is naturally made of grapes and falls within the generally accepted ABV by canonists of 8% – 18%. No additives are permitted except for the minute quantities of sulfites as preservatives. For those that suffer from alcohol intolerance and were given permission by a local Ordinary on a case-by-case basis, mustum is permitted as long as the alcohol content remains above 1%. Mustum is grape juice that has only been allowed to ferment for a short period of time.