The first winery in the Clare Valley was established in 1851 when the Jesuits who settled in the area planted vines to produce sacramental wine. From these modest beginnings, the Jesuits' focus on wine has remained. As the only remaining Jesuit-owned winery in Australia, residing Jesuits are actively in Sevenhill's ongoing development in partnership with lay staff who share the ethos of building the Jesuit Mission to support works of charity and compassion throughout Australia.
Why are Sevenhill’s winery tours so unique?
The tour guide, Brother John May SJ, is the winemaker at Sevenhill Cellars and has been giving tours for more than 40 years. He is the last in line of seven Jesuit winemakers at Sevenhill Cellars and started his career after his arrival in the Clare Valley in 1963. Brother May’s contribution to the wine industry was recognised with life membership of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia in 2004. His public tours are conducted each Tuesday & Thursday at 2pm. Bookings are essential.
Tell us about Sevenhill’s sacramental wine
Sevenhill Cellars has been making altar wine since its establishment in 1851 and today it constitutes about 25 per cent of their output. Christian denominations Australia wide use Sevenhill altar wine in their services and it has found an international market with religious groups in East Timor, Guam, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Singapore. Unlike table wine, altar wine is made in a similar way to Apera (sherry) and comes in three styles. The most common is Sweet Red, symbolising the blood of Christ, a blend of Grenache and Pedro Ximenez. Then there’s Sweet White made from White Frontignac, which appeals to those who want to avoid stains on their altar linen, and Dry White made from Pedro Ximenez for the diabetics.
Did you know...
St Aloysius’ Church at Sevenhill Cellars was completed in 1875 and still serves the Parish of Sevenhill. Mass is conducted at St Aloysius' each Saturday at 6pm and the winery tour includes a visit to the church and its underground crypt.