The right amount of wine

In the Benedictine abbey of Maximin, a centuries-old tradition held that a generous ration of wine could be enjoyed by the monks. Their one main meal a day was supplemented by an allowance of three litres of light white wine.

This generous allowance used up most of the wine produced at the estate, leaving only a small proportion to be sold.

It happened that a new abbot was elected, who decided to improve the abbey’s finances. He abruptly decreed that the daily ration be cut to two litres. This led to a dramatic decline in the physical and psychological health of the monks in his care. They began to sicken, stayed in their cells and neglected their sacred duties and their work in the vineyards. The abbot sought advice from a doctor, who talked to the monks and subjected them to intense medical examination. After a while he returned to the abbot and briefed him on the result of his investigations: ‘Your Eminence, you are a good economist, but a bad cellarmaster. Do you not know that a wooden cask that is not filled to the bunghole with wine is infected with mould, and that the wine within it is exposed to the air and starts to referment? This has happened in the stomachs of your monks: robbed of their daily ration of good wine, mould has formed in their bodies, the wine they have drunk began to ferment and your charges inevitably became ill.

The abbot learned his lesson, returned to the tried and tested ration of three litres a day and was happy to see the rapid recovery of his monks!

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