Monks make millions from 'tonic wine' that has been linked to violence

Sarah Coles
Buckfast wine mentioned in crime reports
Buckfast wine mentioned in crime reports

The Devon monks who make Buckfast tonic wine have made a record £8.8 million - partly from sales of the caffeine-fuelled 15% fortified wine. The monks have been able to transform the Abbey, but the effect of the 'tonic wine' on the drinkers has raised concerns.

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Money from sales of the tonic wine makes up a large part of the income of the Buckfast Abbey Trust - which was £8.8 million last year. The grape base is imported from France, and then turned into 'tonic wine' by the monks in a winery in the Abbey.

The Abbey has definitely benefited from the income. It will be spending millions of pounds restring the abbey and the visitor centre - as well as updating its hotel and conference centre (which also contributes to the Trust's income).

Violence link?

However, the wine has a controversial reputation, particularly in Scotland where much of it is consumed. One of the most novel aspects of the tonic wine is the level of caffeine (each bottle has as much caffeine as eight cans of coke), combined with 15% alcohol, which recently led a Scottish sheriff to claim there was an association between Buckfast and violence. He added "The fact is that some people drink far too much of it and get violent."

In fact, a Freedom of Information answer from Strathclyde Police found that Buckfast had been mentioned in 6,496 crime reports from 2010 to 2012.

The Abbey said it was "saddened' by the view that a "small number of people in Scotland are not enjoying Buckfast responsibly". It added that it worked with the distributor to ensure it was marketed responsibly, that most people who drink the wine do so responsibly, and that it supported charities such as Drinkaware.

It's not the first drink to be blamed for the behaviour of those who drink it: in the 18th century, it was gin that was blamed for widespread bad behaviour.


There is no denying, however, that Buckfast has an impressive reputation. It is known among some jokers as 'wreck the hoose juice', and it was even the subject of an episode of Rab C Nesbitt - who considered it to be the only wine worth drinking

Amazon reviewers have shared their funniest Buckfast-related one liners. One wrote: "Buckfast is the ideal drink for all occasions where you intend on not remembering the night ahead."

Another added: " I found this a most palatable tonic and consumed most the contents of the bottle with relish prior to visiting the local town centre for a night out. Unfortunately, I don't recall much of the remaining evening. I can only assume it was a rather uneventful."