Very Monky Business: Virtuous Vintners Make Popular Caffeinated Wine


There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Buckfast Tonic Wine. 
That’s okay with the monks at England’s Buckfast Abbey, whose tonic wine has wowed Englanders for many years and is beginning to become a cult favorite beyond the borders of its tranquil community. Reporter Stephen Castle covered the popularity of the wine in an article about the the abbey vintners yesterday in The New York Times.
“Sticky, sweet and flavored like spiced wine, with a hint of violet and a jolt of caffeine, the alcoholic drink produced here for the last century by Benedictine monks is at the heart of a thriving enterprise,” Castle wrote. 
The drink is catching on with the younger crowd in Scotland, a movement which not only brings the abbey more notoriety – Castle noted locals call the monkery “Fastbuck Abbey” – but it also is bringing the drink under fire. 
“Concerned about reports that such drinks create ‘wide-awake drunks’ who are linked to a variety of crimes, including drunken driving and sexual assaults,” Castle wrote, “the Scottish Parliament is considering legislation that could ban Buckfast – often known as Buckie – unless its recipe is changed.”
Meanwhile, those who distribute and sell Buckfast say there’s no proof the drink is any more a cause of crime than other alcoholic drinks. Despite their polemic, the peaceful abbey is battling political opposition, Castle wrote. 
“The criticism has cast a cloud over this tranquil rural corner of western England, where the abbey is an important part of the local economy, and the notion of being lectured about alcohol abuse by Scotland seems jarring, if not downright offensive,” Castle wrote.
The opposition’s front is led by Richard Simpson, a lawmaker in England’s Labour Party. He said the wine is a good idea when used as a tonic – this was the original intent, Castle said – but that the wine is now being consumed in very non-tonic quantities. Simpson is helping craft a law about caffeine amounts in alcoholic drinks. 
 “There is no doubt that caffeine-alcohol mixers make wide-awake drunks,” Simpson told Castle. “You are more likely to drive, and there is much more of a sexual risk. If you drink enough alcohol you eventually become comatose, but if you combine it with caffeine you can go through fairly aggressive phase before you become comatose.” 
According to Castle, the new law would limit to 150 milligrams per liter the amount of caffeine in alcoholic drinks.
Monk is the word with the abbey’s brewmasters.
“The leadership of Buckfast Abbey is famously publicity-shy and, its head, Abbot David Charlesworth, declined to speak to a reporter,” Castle wrote. 

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