In any Catholic mass I attended (in Germany) white wine was used for the holy Eucharist. There are some plausible practical reasons for that. But, as far as I know, red wine was the normal wine in antiquity.

So when the use of white wine in mass started? Were there discussions on the validity of Eucharist with white wine? Were there the opinion, that one could but shouldn't use white wine and red wine would be better?


1 Answer 1


Since when has white wine been used in Catholic Mass?

There this a reasonable possibility that white wine at Mass was used in the Early Church since day one.

Our Lord never said anything about the colour of wine at the last supper. And Rome has never published a decretal concerning the colour of wine. It seems plausible that white wine did become more popular in the 16th century when the use of a purificator was introduced at Mass.

In the Early Church both clergy and laity received the consecrated wine by drinking from the chalice, after receiving a portion of the consecrated bread. Due to many factors, including the difficulty of obtaining wine in Northern European countries (where the climate was unsuitable for viniculture), drinking from the chalice became largely restricted in the West to the celebrating priest, while others received communion only in the form of bread. This also reduced the symbolic importance of choosing wine of red colour. - Altar wine (Wikipedia)

In antiquity, wines were of various colours.

First of let us deal with Greek wine.

Ancient Greece and wine

The most common style of wine in ancient Greece was sweet and aromatic, though drier wines were also produced. Color ranged from dark, inky black to tawny to nearly clear. Oxidation was difficult to control, a common wine fault that meant many wines did not retain their quality beyond the next vintage. However, wines that were stored well and aged were highly prized: Hermippus described the best mature wines as having a bouquet of "violets, roses and hyacinth." Comedic poets noted that Greek women liked "old wine but young men."

And now for ancient Roman wines.

As in much of the ancient world, sweet white wine was the most highly regarded style. Wines were often very alcoholic, with Pliny noting that a cup of Falernian would catch fire from a candle flame drawn too close. Wine was often diluted with warm water, occasionally seawater.

The term "wine" spanned a broad spectrum of wine-based beverages, the quality of which depended on the amount of pure grape juice used and how diluted the wine was when served. The finest wine was reserved for the upper classes of Rome. Below that was posca, a mixture of water and sour wine that had not yet turned into vinegar. Less acidic than vinegar, it still retained some of the aromas and texture of wine and was the preferred wine for the rations of Roman soldiers due to its low alcohol levels. Posca's use as soldiers' rations was codified in the Corpus Juris Civilis and amounted to around a liter per day. Still lower in quality was lora (modern-day piquette), which was made by soaking in water for a day the pomace of grape skins already pressed twice, and then pressing a third time. Cato and Varro recommended lora for their slaves. Both posca and lora were the most commonly available wine for the general Roman populace and probably would have been for the most part red wines, since white wine grapes would have been reserved for the upper class.

The wines of ancient Palestine are a different matter all together.

Palestinian wine has been in production since ancient times. In Palestine, the use of wine was not only an important factor in religious ritual, but also a necessity for social interaction, general dietary consumption and medicinal purposes.

Vines were among the three major crops cultivated in Roman and Byzantine Palestine and there are numerous remains of ancient winery installations. Wine was produced throughout the region, from the fertile plains in the north, to the arid areas of the Negev. In Akhziv, an enormous press with the capacity for 59,000 litres was dated to the 4th century. Archaeology suggests that there was a substantial increase in production in the early Byzantine period and most the large-scale presses date to this era.5 The rabbis of the Talmudic era devoted much attention to wine production and commerce and instituted many laws religious pertaining to it. Although the Talmud states that "the wine of Tyre was cheaper than Palestinian wine," nowhere does it mention that wine was ever exported abroad. Various other sources from the Byzantine period reveal that this indeed occurred. Around the mid-fourth century, the anonymous writer of Expositio totius mundi et gentium states: "Ashkelon and Gaza…export the best wine to all Syria and Egypt." Transport jars or amphorae have been found in large quantities at various Mediterranean sites, at harbours and as parts of shipwrecked cargos off the shores of Cyprus, Greece and Asia Minor. Significant international trade in Palestinian wine started in the early 5th century, and lasted another 250 years. The deposits of Palestinian amphorae in foreign regions is substantial. They show that Palestinian wines were exported as far as Spain, Gaul and even Wales. In this period, they accounted for 45% of amphorae found in Carthage, 20% at 6th-century Argos and Marseille and 16% at Naples in the 7th century. It is assumed that the Palestinian Bag Jar, one of the most common forms of pottery to be found in the southern Levant, carried white Palestinian wine when exported. John the Almsgiver (7th-cent.) is said to have admired the aromatic bouquet of the expensive Palestinian wine he was offered in Alexandria. Coming from the land of the Bible, Palestinian wine appealed to Christian priests for use during the Eucharist.

This begs the question of what kind of wine did Our Lord used at the Last Supper?

Is there a modern wine that is designed to resemble an ancient Hebrew (Palestinian) wine?

Marawi Wine from the Recanati Winery in Israel.

The new crisp, acidic and mineral white from a high-end Israeli winery was aged for eight months — or, depending on how you look at it, at least 1,800 years.

The wine, called Marawi and released last month by Recanati Winery, is the first commercially produced by Israel’s growing modern industry from indigenous grapes. It grew out of a groundbreaking project at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank that aims to use DNA testing to identify — and recreate — ancient wines drunk by the likes of King David and Jesus Christ. - Israel Aims to Recreate Wine That Jesus and King David Drank

Although a little speculative, it is not impossible that Our Lord, himself, used white wine at the Last Supper. It would be interesting to see what tradition has to say on this subject also.

Where does the practice of using amber wine for communion come from, and why is it done? Do we not lose the symbolism of red wine?

It is thought that amber wine was introduced [(became more popular)] in the Western Church during the post-Tridentine era. J. A. Jungmann gave his opinion that "when . . . the use of the purificator became general, that is since the sixteenth century, white wine has become commonly preferred because it leaves fewer traces in the linen" (The Mass of the Roman Rite, 1959). In the same way, Peter Elliott reckoned that amber or white wine had been favoured in the Western Rites because of this convenience of washing altar linens (Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite, second edition, 2004).

Unlike the acute controversy over the use of leavened or unleavened bread, at the time of the Great Schism between East and West in the 11th century, the exact colour of altar wine has not been a contentious issue, and at no time has there been any canonical regulation to make wine of a particular colour universally obligatory. It has been acknowledged that obviously red wine is a better Eucharistic symbol than amber or white; as such it has sometimes been referred to as "the blood of the grape", as well as "the fruit of the vine". This symbolic value, however, true as it is, weighs far less with those who maintain a strong realist view of the sacramental presence: the visual appearance of consecrated wine of whatever shade is independent of the res sacramenti - that of Christ's real presence in the Blessed Sacrament of his Body and Blood in holy communion. - Amber communion wine?

Although red wine is more symbolic in colour with blood, white is to say the more commonly used wine at Mass. White wine has a more symbolic aspect of demonstrating the Mass as a “spiritual and bloodless sacrifice.” Possibly because of availability. A lot would depend on the availability of the Altar wine offered in a particular area, as well to the personal choice or the priest saying Mass.

Both red and white wines were used in ancient times for Mass.

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