The Economics of Wine in the Catholic Church during and Following Renaissance

Wine in the Catholic Church during and Following Renaissance was used as sacramental wine. Rebirth, a common element of the Renaissance, was once found across much of European civilization, from the arts and politics to economics and society. It is generally accepted that the Renaissance occurred between the 14th and 17th centuries and was characterized by the rediscovery of antiquated philosophical ideas, literary works, and creative techniques. The rulers of the Roman Catholic Church were in charge throughout this period.

How Does the Wine Industry Fit in?

The history of wine in the Catholic Church was greatly affected by ancient Rome. The Greek and Etruscan civilizations first inspired Italian winemaking. New winemaking techniques and a growing interest in wine led to an expansion of the Roman Empire, To this day, the most important wine-producing areas of France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain all owe their existence to Roman rule.

Wine in the Catholic Church

Figure 2. Christ’s Cross Fueled the Need for Wine and Grape Farming

The ancient Romans considered wine a necessity; therefore, it was widely available and “democratic.” Everyone had easy access to alcohol, whether slaves, peasants, lords, or commoners. Planting grapes and manufacturing wine became popular very quickly, ensuring that Roman soldiers and colonists never had to fare without wine. Because of the wine trade, merchants could do business with the local populations of Gaul and Germany. The ancient wine trade and the use of amphorae, clay wine jars, are well documented. In fact, amphorae constitute one of the most-found artifacts.

Wine Production

First, grapes were pounded similar to the pigeage process in French winemaking. This process was started just after the grapes had been picked. There is a distinct difference between the juice produced by pressing grapes and the juice extracted by juicing. Free-flowing juice was also thought to have the most beneficial medicinal components.

A custom-built chamber with a raised concrete platform, a small basin, and high curbs surrounding its perimeter was used for the pressing procedure. Run-off water was automatically directed to a single point in the basin’s construction due to its mild slopes. Above the basin, long wooden beams were linked to a windlass using ropes, allowing them to be strewn out horizontally and bear the weight of the water. In order to compress the grapes between the beams, windlass tension was provided by lowering the windlass. During the pressing process, liquid flowed down the beams and into a basin. As it was extremely costly and time-consuming to build and utilize a wine press, smaller wineries depended only on foot treading to extract grape juice from their grapes. As a result, its use was mainly confined to larger estates.

Wine Harvesting

Figure 3. Wine Harvesting

Aged white wine on its lees enhanced taste, while chalk or marble dust corrected its acidity. Both methods added depth to the wine. In the past, wines were “baked” at high temperatures, similar to how Madeira is made now. Defrutum entails boiling a part of the wine to concentrate the sugars, then mixing it with the remaining fermenting batch. This is “defrutum.” This sweetened the wine.

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Lead was occasionally used as a sweetener; honey was also sometimes utilized. Three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of honey was advised to sweeten around 12 liters of wine for Romans. “Süssreserve” refers to the integration of unfermented, sweeter honey into the final product.

Wine Consumption

Whole districts in southern Europe were dedicated to producing and selling wine, and wine was by far the most popular alcoholic beverage. Historically, monks were the primary caretakers of most of the world’s early vineyards. Their vineyard yielded grapes that were used to make wine that was then served during Catholic masses. Even though most of the region’s wine was produced and drunk locally, trade with Bordeaux was very common

Some of the world’s most expensive dessert wines were also brought in from Crete and Madeira. 

Despite water being often blended with wine, it was seldom drunk on its own. Because of widespread concerns about contaminated water, this resulted. Throughout the Renaissance, there was much discussion over whether the wine was designed to enhance the flavor of water or the other way around.

Uses of Wine

The use of wine in the Catholic Church was for sacramental wine. Even in locations where wine was not historically produced, it spurred this growth of the wine industry. It was fashionable in the 16th century to admire and compare women deemed “full of flesh” to wine barrels. In addition to taking more extended steam baths and accessing the most up-to-date drugs and treatments, the rich drank the most expensive foreign wines.

“Baths, wine, and sex corrupt our bodies, but baths, wine, and sex make life worth living.” — epitaph of Tiberius Claudius Secundus.


The Romans believes that diseases could be either exacerbated or alleviated by drinking wine. Mental and physical ailments, such as depression and memory loss, were initially considered treatable by drinking wine. This belief was based on the fact that drinking wine helped alleviate various illnesses. Sometimes, wine is still considered a viable treatment for these illnesses today.

Recipes for a laxative based on wine made from grapevines that had been treated with ash, manure, and hellebore is often included in discussions on the therapeutic use of wine. The blooms of various plants, including juniper and myrtle, were steeped in wine as a possible treatment for snakebites and gout. Other uses included relying on an infusion of juniper, old wine, and a lead cauldron to treat urinary difficulties. Romans also considered using pomegranate and wine concoctions to cure tapeworms, particularly ones with high acidity.


11 November 1417: The date on which Pope Celestine V’s successor, Pope Martin V of the Council of Constance, was elected. “Between the Western Schism and the Reformation, the Renaissance Papacy was the era of papal history that began with this event, which is widely accepted to be the beginning of this period.” Thus, this day is essential to the Renaissance Papacy.

For more reads on Wine in Religion, read the book below!

Bible Wines: On Laws Of Fermentation And The Wines Of The Ancients book History of the Catholic Church From the Renaissance to the French Revolution


  1. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Martin V.”  Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. Merton Sandler, Roger Pinder, and Inc NetLibrary, Wine: A Scientific Exploration (London; New York: Taylor & Francis, 2003).
  3. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Martin V.”  Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , By Published On: October 26, 2022Last Updated: February 21, 2024

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