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As you know, if there’s something that even hints at having anything to do with wine then it sparks my attention. At my day job (yes sadly I don’t actually drink and write about wine all day and get paid for it) I work with a gal from Ireland who has referenced Buckfast Tonic Wine a number of times.
“The Co Armagh town’s fondness for the fortified wine has earned it the nickname Lurgan Champagne, in one supermarket it’s second only to milk in popularity” – Belfast Telegraph
Seeing as my workmate and her hubby hold Buckie dare to their hearts I thought it might be time to give it a crack in celebration of St Patrick’s Day. Dan Murphys sells Buckfast in Australia and I was told of a couple of places in Perth to buy it. DeVine Cellars in Inglewood was my closest option and by goodness I had fun checking out this fab bottle shop. Needless to say I didn’t walk out with only a bottle of Buckie.
DeVine were selling the tonic wine for $23 a pop or $258 for 12 bottles. I think just one 750ml bottle will do me for a start as my workmate specifically told me “My sister calls it a bottle of smiles so enjoy the euphoric feelings it brings, it’s really more like taking drugs than drinking!”.
Was I just a bit anxious at what she said? Yes! Most definitely! Plus after doing some prior research and reading the below snippet on legendarydatmoor.co.uk I was a bit terrified..
“He told me to be very careful as it contained, “a baby in every bottle”. When asked what he was on about, the reply came, “It’s mighty strong stuff and nearly everyone who has had some have ended up with a baby nine months later”
So what did I think? Well I started by chilling it down and then proceeded to pour a taste into a Riedel red wine glass. I figured that might be the most appropriate vessel for the tonic after seeing its tawny colour. I then proceeded to treat it like any other wine, analysing it on the eye, nose and palate. Here’s my final tasting note…
Buckfast tasting note:
Toffee colour on the eye with a rather distinct nose of medicine, caramel and coffee. It definitely is very distinctive on the nose! Surprisingly on the palate it’s not as bad as you might think, actually the closer I got to finishing the bottle, the better the syrup-like tonic became. It’s like a mix of flat coke, ribena, cough syrup and caramel lollies. Sweet, potent and despite being a ‘tonic wine’ I’m pretty sure it’s not what the doctor would suggest unless you have a very old-school (and maybe a bit mad) doctor.
Typically you have it straight however you can also have it over ice with a squeeze of lime to fancy it up a bit. My workmate has also made Buckfast slushies!
What is Buckfast Tonic Wine?
So what exactly is Buckie? As mentioned it’s a tonic wine, much like a fortified wine which was concocted by French Benedictine monks in the 1880’s (yes the same monks that created the famous Benedictine Liqueur).
What is Buckfast made from?
It starts with a base red wine (these days it’s typically sourced from France but in the early days the ‘mistellas’ came from Spain) and then ‘tonic ingredients’ are added to it according to the old recipe. Those specific ingredients are unknown but we do know there are many added chemicals such as sodium glycerophosphate. It was originally used for medicinal purposes as per it’s slogan back in the 1800s ‘Three small glasses a day, for good health and lively blood”.
The 2 versions of Buckfast
It is to this day made in Buckfast Abbey in the UK and is distributed by J. Chandler & Company in the UK and Grants of Ireland in Ireland. I also found out from Wikipedia that the UK and Irish versions slightly differ. The Irish version comes in a dark bottle, is 0.2% lower in alcohol sitting at 14.8%, it has 17.5mg/100ml more of caffeine and doesn’t have the vanillin flavouring the UK version has. It looks like DeVine cellars stock the UK version FYI.
Buckfast and its reputation
Interestingly enough, apparently the caffeine levels equate to about six cups of coffee, making it more caffeinated than Red Bull. Due to the wines intense nature it has of course got a rep particularly throughout England, Scotland and Ireland. Just Google ‘tonic wine crime’ and you’ll see what I mean. I think some of the below Buckfast memes also help convey the idea.
So the question is, are you game to try the wine with the unofficial global slogan of ‘gets you fucked fast’?