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Oldest papal vineyard blends charity into award-winning wine

J-P Mauro - published on 06/11/21

The world pandemic hurt Le Barroux Abbey and local farmers, but now they're ready to bounce back with a charitable campaign.

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In France’s Rhône Valley there stands the oldest papal vineyard. Planted by Pope Clement V, in 1309, the vines of the Abbey of Le Barroux have produced high-quality wine longer than most of the secular commercial operations that surround them. Then the operation was placed into jeopardy by revenue losses caused by the world pandemic.

Now, the monks and nuns of Le Barroux have launched a campaign to help raise sales. According to CNA, the goal is to sell 15,000 bottles of their Via Caritatis wine in the month of June. Revenues support the monastic community, but also around 80 families of local wine growers in association with the abbey

The winemaking community

That these local, family-run vineyards are still afloat at all is thanks in part to the abbey. In recent years, the abbey has worked closely with these local families, blending their grapes with those of the Barroux vineyard. An NCR report notes that several of these blended wines have won awards. 

CNA spoke with Fr. Michael, an American born priest who has lived and worked at Le Barroux vineyard for 30 years. He noted that the local farmers produce high-quality grapes that have never received the acclaim they deserve. He told CNA

“These families around us were making good wines, especially because we have the soil that is capable of producing … great wine, if it was cared for properly … The monastery was able to invest and to help these wine-making families get out of a situation which, all alone, I don’t think that they would have ever been able to get out of.”

The charity

The wine helps to support the monastic and secular communities of Rhône Valley, but they go farther than that. True to the Rule of St. Benedict, Le Barroux Abbey donates a portion of their earnings to the poor. It was in reference to their charitable nature that they chose the name Via Caritatis, or “The Way of Love.” 

Of the relationship between wine and Christian charity, Fr. Michael mused: 

“If Christ chose wine to transform into his blood, it is for a reason, and he chose wine for a reason. So wine is something material, but it’s something that’s called by Christ to be transformed into something spiritual.”

As part of their campaign to increase sales, Le Barroux Abbey has partnered with the St. Pio Foundation. The arrangement will send 10% of the proceeds from each sale to support the St. Pio Foundation. An additional 10% can be taken off the price with a promotional code. Of the remaining 80%, a portion will still be donated to the poor, following the abbey’s custom. 

Visit Via Caritatis’ website to learn more about the abbey’s unique, high-quality wine.

Visit the St. Pio Foundation to support the abbey’s charitable campaign. 

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