Hot summer gives wine-making nuns a headache

Nuns checking the grapes. Photo: Frans Lemmens / ANP
Nuns checking the grapes. Photo: Frans Lemmens / ANP

Last year’s hot weather has put the wine-making nuns at Sint Catharinedal convent in Oosterhout in a tight spot, with 64,000 bottles of wine they can’t sell.

The Norbertinessen order, which has been at Sint Catharinedal since 1647, is partly dependent for the upkeep of the convent on the sale of wine, sister Maria Magdalena told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant.

The nuns started making wine in 2012. Originally the idea was to plant hops for beer making on the extensive convent grounds but that was rejected as ‘unfitting for a female order’ and the nuns plumped for wine.

‘It has Biblical connotations and refers to Jesus. And to be perfectly honest, the nuns like it themselves,’ sister Maria Magdalena said. ‘I think we did the right thing when we picked wine making. It makes people happy.’

Some 130 volunteers and people with an intellectual disability help the nuns harvest the grapes and bottle the wine every year.

The nuns have been stuck with surplus wine before when KLM pulled the plug on an order of 20,000 bottles during the pandemic in 2020. At the time, the nuns were helped out by local charity Breda Maakt Mij Blij which has stepped in again.

The platform helps farmers and others who have trouble selling their produce by featuring them on their website. A bottle of Norbertus white or a Ricwere rosé, named after the first nun at the convent, is featured for €14.50.

‘It’s a tall order. It was just too hot and sunny last year. It sounds good but now they have 64,000 bottles to sell,’ spokesman Thibaud van der Steen said.

The nuns meanwhile regard the increase in their wine stockpile as a divine gift. ‘It will alleviate our money worries, if they sell, that is,’ sister Maria Magdalena said.

Thank you for donating to

We could not provide the Dutch News service, and keep it free of charge, without the generous support of our readers. Your donations allow us to report on issues you tell us matter, and provide you with a summary of the most important Dutch news each day.

Make a donation