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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Remember Bethlehem - by drinking its wine
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¬†Few will make it to Bethlehem this Christmas, but there is a new way of supporting the beleaguered town of Christ's birth ≠ by drinking fine wines produced there by the Salesians of Don Bosco. Cremisan wine production ≠ which these days runs to about 200,000 litres a year - began in 1885 and helps finance the work of the Salesian community among the poor of Bethlehem. The Salesians run technical schools, an artistic training centre and several projects in the town, including a youth centre and a bakery. The idea of importing the wine into the UK came to Della Shenton, a pastoral liturgist in the Diocese of Plymouth, after she began leading "contemplative retreats" in the Holy Land. Discovering that wine sales locally had dropped in line with the pilgrim numbers on which the local economy depends, she realised that "if pilgrims were no longer going to the wine, the wine could come to the pilgrims." She put the idea to the Salesians, who were enthusiastic, and 5th Gospel Retreats began importing Cremisan wine earlier this year. Because Palestine is not recognised as a wine-producing country, the bottles bear the tag "Wine of Israel". In fact, Cremisan wine is produced at the Salesian winery just outside Bethlehem, using traditional methods. The organically cultivated grapes come from the vineyards at Beit Gemal, 36 kilometres west of Jerusalem, as well as from Cremisan itself and from local farmers around Bethlehem. Production of the wine, which is aged in oak barrels, is overseen by Bro Ermenegildo Lamon, Cremisan's Master of Wine, who arrived from Italy in 1949 and is the world's expert in Holy Land wine production. Although much of the wine is sold by the case at parishes where Della Shenton goes to give talks on Bethlehem and its plight, she also offers a nationwide rapid delivery service. In addition to the fine table wines, which currently include two reds and a white Chardonnay, 5th Gospel is also importing Cremisan white altar wine. "Messa" - certified by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem - has been welcomed by priests looking for an authentic organic wine which conforms to the standards of purity demanded by church law. Cremisan is also producing for 5th Gospel a red altar wine in response to requests from Anglican priests. It is expected in time for Easter 2008. But for most buyers, the idea of supporting Bethlehem by drinking its wine has a more obvious appeal ≠ toasting Christ's birth with the work of Bethlehem hands. For information on ordering wine from Bethlehem this Christmas, see: or call Della Shenton on 01579 340844 or 07808 957604 email:
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