Canadian Catholic parishes may soon have to rely on sacramental Welch’s, thanks to a raid by Quebec City police on religious stores selling “illegal” Communion wine. Food & Wine reported on the debacle, citing the Catholic News Service (CNS). According to CNS, the cops seized bottles of sacramental win from Bertrand, Foucher, Bélanger, which has been one of Montreal’s go-to religious suppliers for more than 100 years. Cops reportedly busted the store with a warrant referencing illegal possession of alcohol. They also seized wine from two other religious specialty stores in the province, Procure Ecclésiastique in Quebec City, and Chandelles Tradition MB, Inc. in Saint-Constant.
The Quebec City Police Department told CNS that the bust was the result of a years-long investigation into altar wine that has, as Food & Wine puts it, “allegedly illegally been imported into Quebec from other Canadian provinces.” Quebec’s alcoholic beverage authority doesn’t allow the import of products that it does not sell—meaning that the local religious community’s go-to California altar wines are off-limits. “This issue has been dragging on for 40 years,” Jacques Laroche, the general manager and co-owner of one of the targeted stores, told CNS. “We applied for an altar wine license in 1997, but were denied. So we found another solution.”
So why can’t local parishes just buy their sacramental wine locally? Per Food & Wine, the kind of wines that meet the Catholic church’s sacramental requirements aren’t produced in the province, so they are imported from California into Quebec. The Pope has declared that sacramental wine must be made “from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt,” a standard that also forbids “wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance.” And while Quebec’s booze authority told CNS that it was “analyzing its current stocks” to see if it had any suitable wines, parishes in Quebec aren’t happy with the holdup. “I don’t see what they’re trying to do, other than cause trouble and interfere with a fundamental right,” Laroche told CNS. “Currently, parishes in Quebec no longer have access to Mass wine for worship.” Time to revive the ol’ water-to-wine trick.