Blog: Chris Brook-CarterMass drinking

Chris Brook-Carter | 24 February 2004

Pity the poor churchgoers of New Zealand, the latest and most unlikely victims of tightening alcohol policy. A binge drinkers’ tax in the country has resulted in priests being forced to switch to a low-alcohol wine in church services. The so-called “sherry tax” was imposed last year, putting all drinks containing between 14% and 23% alcohol on the same tax rate as full-strength spirits.

Mission Estate vineyard, which supplies up to 1,500 cases of altar wine each year to churches of different denominations, has therefore knocked the alcohol content down by 4% to escape the tax and keep the product affordable to churches.

By reducing the alcohol content, however, the wine does not keep for as long as before, giving the religious community a new headache altogether.

“You can't use the new altar wine in some places because it would go off before you finished the bottle,” said Catholic priest Paddy Kinsella. “We still use the older wine at small churches where we don't say mass very often as we want wine that will last 30 weeks.”


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