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Tonic Wine

Tonic Wine


The recipe for the Tonic wine is attributed to the original French monks who settled at the Abbey in the 1880's. Base wines from Spain, known as mistellas, were imported and to these were added the tonic ingredients according to an old recipe.

By the 1920s 1400 bottles were sold annually, 500 from Buckfast and the remainder by post. In 1927 a London wine merchant was visiting the Abbey, and in conversation with the Abbot, Anscar Vonier, it was decided that the monks would continue to make the Tonic wine with the distribution and sale to be carried out by a separate marketing company. In order to broaden its appeal the Tonic was changed slightly from a rather severe patent medicine to a smoother, more mature medicated wine.

Having taken on the marketing of "Buckfast" the distributing company adopted a reserved promotional approach resulting in the widespread appreciation of the product nationally and internationally.

In modern times it continues to be made at Buckfast Abbey along the same lines and according to the same basic recipe as used in the very early days. The main challenge of production lies in the successful addition of inert substances to a base wine - a living and natural entity.

The selection of the base wine is thus of prime importance. Today the base mistellas come from France, and provide the ideal medium for the skill and expertise of the monks to produce a Tonic with a smooth, rounded taste.

New Tonic Factory

Buckfast Abbey Tonic wine has been produced at the Abbey, ever since the French monks who re-established the Benedictine community in the 19th century, invented the drink as a “pick-me-up”.

But with markets opening up as far afield as the Irish Republic and the Bahamas, the Abbey was faced with the challenge of where to locate new and more spacious facilities that were needed, not only for the efficient production of the wine but also to accommodate large delivery trucks coming and going.

A field in the Dartmoor National Park opposite the Abbey was identified as ideal but planning permission was conditional on the proposed buildings blending in with the countryside.

The Abbey did just that and an inconspicuous low-lying building with a grass roof was designed and built. The site has a wide entrance for tankers and also incorporates four reception vats, each holding a capacity of 130,000 litres of wine. These were sunk deep into the ground during installation (pictured below right). Things have certainly moved on from the day when the monks would load their barrels and bottles on to the backs of carts.

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Diocesan Celebration of the Feast of Saint Cuthbert Mayne

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