Pope Francis has said that wine “is a gift from God” and “a true source of joy” for its consumers – words that have been immediately embraced by Italian wine producers who have fought against European health warnings.
He made the comments during a private audience at the Vatican with winemakers from across Italy.
Welcoming his audience, he joked: “This seems like a drunk pope,” before going on to say: “Wine, land, agricultural skills, and entrepreneurialism are gifts from God – the creator has entrusted them to us because, with our sensitivity and honesty, we make them a true source of joy.”
However, the pontiff also called on the winemakers to reflect on the “moral and ethical responsibilities” their work entails, such as treating their workers and the environment with respect while encouraging healthy drinking habits.
The event was organised by Domenico Pompili, the bishop of Verona, before the Vinitaly wine trade fair that takes place in the northern Italian city each April. The key to drinking wine is moderation, Pompili said. “Saint Paul said it – a glass is good to cheer you up, but in moderation.”
Italy has pushed back against proposals to make health warnings on alcoholic drinks mandatory across the EU after Ireland was given approval by the European Commission to adopt the measure.
The move in Ireland, which was met with protest by Italy, Spain, and six other EU states, will lead to health warning labels being placed on bottles of wine, beer, and spirits from 2026.
Although the daily consumption of wine in Italy has declined steadily over the last 15 years, there has been a rise in more moderate consumption, according to figures from Istat, the national statistics agency. Italian wine associations often refer to this to argue that Italians have a healthier relationship with wine compared with their boozier counterparts in northern Europe.
Federico Bricolo, the president of Veronafiere, which organises Vinitaly, said the pope’s tribute to wine was a reminder that the drink is a “symbol of tradition and of a socially and environmentally sustainable economic system”.
“And all in the name of a conviviality that unites,” he added.
Francis has endorsed wine in the past. During a papal audience in 2016, he said wine was an integral part of a wedding celebration.
“A wedding party where no wine makes the newlyweds ashamed, imagine you finish the wedding party drinking tea,” he said.
Wine is also a crucial element of the Catholic mass. In 2014, research found that the Vatican City consumed more wine per capita than any other country.
Source: The Guardian