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Tax forces NZ churches to use low-alcohol wine

The Church in New Zealand has been forced to switch to using low alcohol wine for the Eucharist following the imposition of a binge drinker's tax.

The so-called "sherry tax", targetting heavy-drinking teenagers, was imposed last year putting all drinks containing 14% to 23% alcohol on the same tax rate as full-strength spirits.

The Marists' Mission Estate vineyard, which supplies up to 1500 cases of altar wine each year to churches of different denominations, has knocked the alcohol content down by 4% to escape the tax and keep the product affordable to churches.

Fr Paddy Kinsella said the church had been an unwitting victim of the tax.

"Because it had a high alcohol content the traditional altar wine would keep well," he said. "You can't use the new altar wine in some places because it would go off before you finished the bottle. 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."

Priests hit by binge-drinker's tax (Agence France-Presse/ 25/2/04)

Mission Estate
Churches fall prey to sherry tax (Hawkes Bay Today 23/2/04)

25 Feb 2004