Buckfast monks say attack on wine ‘unfair’

The Devon-based monks who manufacture Buckfast Tonic Wine have defended their product, saying it is “not fair” to blame it for crime in Scotland.

Makers of Buckfast Tonic Wine say its links to crime in Scotland are 'not fair'. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Speaking to BBC News, Abbot David Charlesworth of Buckfast Abbey said the wine was not made to be abused.

Abbot Charlesworth took the rare step of speaking out after police in Strathclyde in Scotland linked it to nearly 6,500 crime reports in the last three years.

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In his first interview on the subject, Abbot Charlesworth denied that the drink, first made by the Buckfast monks in the 1920s, was “bad”.

“We don’t make a product for it to be abused. That’s not the idea. We make a product which is a tonic wine,” he said.

“It annoys me to think that these problems, all the social deprivation of an area of Scotland, is being put on our doorstep. That’s not fair. I’m not producing drugs, which I know are going to be used abusively.”

He said the abbey had attempted to address problems, for example employing a youth worker in an area where the problems with the tonic wine were occurring.

Abbot Charlesworth said: “If I say I don’t feel any responsibility that makes me sound like a heartless so and so. That’s not the case.

“I don’t want Buckfast Abbey to be associated with broken bottles and drunks. But is the product bad? No.”

He added: “I’ve heard people say we should ban Buckfast. If you ban Buckfast, ban Scottish whisky. It’s alcohol, much stronger. But oh no, they wouldn’t do that. So they are picking on a particular thing as a sort of conscience salver.”

Hampshire-based J Chandler & Co, which bottles and sells Buckfast, is taking legal action to stop Police Scotland adding its own anti-crime labels to bottles of the tonic wine.

Police Scotland declined to comment on the social impact of the drink because of the ongoing legal action.