It’s always wine o’clock somewhere: Convent sells 20,000 bottles during pandemic

It’s always wine o’clock somewhere: Convent sells 20,000 bottles during pandemic

Norbertine Sister Mary Magdalene holds a bottle of wine at the Catharinadal Priory in Oosterhout, Netherlands. (Credit: Screenshot/vimeo.com - Breda Maakt Mij Blij via Katholiek Nieuwsblad.)

After being left with a surplus of 20,000 bottles of wine, an internet campaign leaves a Dutch convent's cellar bare in a matter of days during COVID-19 pandemic.

In the southern Dutch town of Oosterhout, the Norbertine sisters of Catharinadal Priory have made a name for themselves for the wine they produce on the grounds of their convent.

It’s so famous, that Dutch national airliner KLM planned on buying 20,000 bottles of white wine to serve it on its intercontinental flights.

This plan, however, was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, drastically reducing the number of KLM’s flights.

As both the regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant and Brabants Dagblad newspaper reported last week, the deal was aborted before it was signed: Leaving the convent with an extra 20,000 bottles of wine and without the needed income for the maintenance of their convent.

Enter two entrepreneurs from the nearby city of Breda. Earlier this year, they had started an online initiative to help local farmers sell their produce after losing much of their usual market due to the pandemic.

“The deal had not yet been signed, but the nuns were already counted on it. Now they are stuck with that wine,” Thibauld van der Steen and Frank Haagen told Omroep Brabant.

The two began a media campaign to publicize the plight of the convent, and several media outlets – including the Dutch Catholic weekly Katholiek Nieuwsblad – ran the story.

Soon the convent faced a reversal of fortunes: A surplus of wine became a shortage.

“We have to disappoint everyone. It’s rather chaotic here. Yesterday really was a madhouse,” a representative of the convent told Katholiek Nieuwsblad.

The Catharinadal Priory has a long history: The Norbertine sisters have lived there continuously since the mid-seventeenth century. Currently, there are 14 sisters living in the monastery.

The nuns decided to start growing a vineyard and producing wine in 2014, as a means of supporting their community.

The sale of their stock came just in time: The new harvest will be ready this month.

Van der Steen and Hagen are still helping the sisters: They plan on recruiting volunteers to pick the grapes to ease the workload of the mostly elderly nuns.

This article was written exclusively for Crux and translated by Peter Doorakkers.

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