Some nuns, desperate to sell 64,000 bottles of wine, set up an online store

Some nuns, desperate to sell 64,000 bottles of wine, set up an online store

Andrea Pacha Röper

A viticultural nun

A viticultural nunGetty Images

  • After a sunny summer, these Dutch nuns obtained an abundant harvest and an excess of wine that they are now trying to dispose of

  • In the monastery of Sint Catharinadal they began to produce their own wines in 2012, as a result of the economic crisis, which forced them to look for new ways of earning income

  • The Vatican studies how to help its nuns burned by stress

Selling 64,000 bottles of wine is the great challenge they face the nuns of the monastery of Sint Catharinadalin Oosterhout (Netherlands), after the bountiful vintage last fall: “In summer it was too hot and sunny”explains Thibaud Van der Steen, co-founder of a local platform to help small farmers in the area who has already set to work to find a way out of so many liters of winein an interview with public television Broadcasting Brabant.

And it is that he heat that devastates crops in southern Europemultiplies exponentially those of the north, given the right conditions for some crops that are not usually very abundant in colder climates.

This congregation of nuns has occupied the monastery since 1647, but their winemaking skills are relatively new: “Due to the economic crisis, in 2012 we had to find a new source of incomethat’s why we started this”tells Sister María Magdalena about this wine business, which has become the main source of liquidity for the monastery.

The same nun explains that the group’s first idea to face the economic difficulties was to cultivate hops in the surroundings of the convent, but they thought “that beer and a convent didn’t go together much”despite the fact that there are many monasteries of monks that have produced and marketed their own brand of this drink for centuries. The wine, on the other hand, “It’s biblical, it refers to Jesus.” and, off camera, they chivan that they like more.

A nun tastes a glass of wine next to several boots

A nun tastes a glass of wine next to several bootsGetty Images

Bottles from 14 euros

Thus, the nuns of Sint Catharinadal they learned what was necessary about cultivation and production of this drink and created several types that they sell for 14.50 euros, the cheapest bottle, through their new online store. A tool that they have assembled this year thanks to the Van der Steen platform and with which they you can send orders to all Europe to empty the huge warehouse that they have to overflow.

In fact, the production of the vineyards last year was so great that they had to increase the workforce of volunteers and workers with disabilitieswho are the ones who actually deal with most of the jobs, until they add 130 personas.

German nuns and volunteer workers during a grape harvest

German nuns and volunteer workers during a grape harvestGetty Images

Among the labels of this winery is the story of these nuns: he “Norbertus”a white baptized in honor of the founder of the Norbertine order, the rosé “Ricwera”name of the first inhabitant of the conventor the “Augustine”priest of the church, are some of the examples.

Economic difficulties

“we desperately need those income to maintain the monastery and to be able to continue living here”continues Sister María Magdalena, who in these ten years has already been able to observe the risks of the wine business.

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, they had to put up with more than 20,000 jammed bottles that they were going to sell to KLMthe Dutch airline, which backed out when the lockdowns began.

Last year wasn’t good either. “the 2021 vintage was very bad”says the nun, so last year they survived with what they could get from the 9,000 bottles they produced.

Now they have the opposite problem: they have obtained so much that they don’t know how to manage it. But they assure that if they manage to sell those 64,000 bottles, “the large amount of wine” It will have been “a gift from god” that will help them alleviate “economic concerns” who are suffering “now with the energy crisis”.

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