The recipe for the Tonic wine is attributed to the original French monks who settled at Buckfast Abbey in the 1880’s. Base wines from Spain, known as mistellas, were imported and to these were added the tonic ingredients according to the old recipe.
By the 1920’s 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 Vonnier, 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 by the monks of Buckfast Abbey along the same lines and according to the same basic recipe as used in the very early days. The main difficulty 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 providing the ideal medium for the skill and expertise of the monks to produce a finished product round and mature to the most discerning of tastes.