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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February 2005, 14:54 GMT
Court threat over monks' tipple
Person drinking Buckfast Wine
J Chandler & Co took over the wine's distribution in 1927
An 'unholy' row is brewing over a tonic wine made by Benedictine monks in a Devon town.

Scottish MSP Cathy Jamieson claims there is a link between the wine, made by monks at Buckfast Abbey since 1880, and anti-social behaviour.

She has welcomed a local shopkeeper's move to limit the sale of the drink.

Now distributor J Chandler & Co is seeking compensation for money it claims to have lost as a result.

'Commotion Lotion'

The manager of a store in Auchinleck, Ayrshire, is limiting sales of the wine to two bottles and will only sell to customers he knows.

Ms Jamieson, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, said she welcomed the decision because of problems in the area and hoped other off-licences would also act responsibly.

The distributor claims Ms Jamieson has defamed the Buckfast brand and is said to be investigating possible breaches of UK and EU regulations governing free movement of goods.

The tonic wine is made by Benedictine monks who settled in Devon from France. Sales of the wine world-wide are thought to be worth about 28m.

The wine has many nick-names in Scotland, including 'commotion lotion', 'wreck-the-hoose juice' and 'Mrs Brown'.

Although it is sold in off-licences throughout Scotland, it is said to have almost a cult status in certain parts of the country, including the so-called 'Buckfast Triangle', which covers Airdrie, Cumbernauld and Coatbridge.

Is it the individual, is it the bottle or is it the alcohol
Jim Wilson, J Chandler & Co

Although the wine is made by the monks at Buckfast Abbey, the selling, distribution and marketing was taken over by J Chandler in 1927.

Company spokesman Jim Wilson told BBC News that Ms Jamieson's call to ban Buckfast Wine was sending out the wrong message and could even encourage anti-social behaviour.

Mr Wilson says sales of Buckfast Wine are minuscule compared to those of alcopops.

"Ms Jamieson may blame our product, but our sales at 28m are tiny compared to alcopops which are about 300m," he said.

"To answer critics who blame Buckfast for anti-social behaviour, I would say 'Is it the individual, is it the bottle or is it the alcohol?' If a particular type of car was taken off the road, would it stop accidents happening?"

Destructive

Calls to sell Buckfast Wine in plastic containers, because of concerns over broken bottles, have been refused by the distributors on environmental grounds.

Mr Wilson says neither landfill or burning plastic was considered suitable by the company.

But the mother of a boy who used to regularly drink Buckfast Wine in Scotland, believes withdrawing the drink from off-licences would be a sensible move.

Mrs Christine James from Irvine said: "I would describe my son as a mellow drunk. I've seen him drinking alcopops, cider, beer or vodka and he'd get a bit silly, then fall asleep. There was never any trouble.

"But drinking Buckfast was a different kettle of fish. He would binge drink on it and become aggressive and destructive.

"My younger son had his first experience - and hopefully his last - of Buckfast on Friday and he was exactly the same. It's the first time I've every seen him aggressive and I'd love to see it banned."




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