In 2009 a shop in Cambridgeshire denied a schoolboy who wanted to buy wine gums. Supposedly he was “underage.” A close relative to gumdrops, jelly babies, jujubes, jujyfruits, and pastilles, a wine gum (or winegum) is a delightful, totally non-alcoholic treat that has been a classic British confection for over a century.

What the Cambridgeshire shop attendant didn’t know was that wine gums have absolutely nothing to do with wine. There are a couple of theories as to how the candy got its name:
File:Maynards Harringay Entrance.jpg
Hjuk at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
  • According to the description on a candy package, “The pleasantly firm texture allows the full fruit flavors to linger – similar to the pleasurable experience of savoring a fine wine.” 
  • A more interesting explanation is that the inventor of wine gums, Charles Gordon Maynard, developed the candy to help people cut down on their alcohol consumption–and end up with diabetes instead.

Apparently the name has been misunderstood since day 1. Charles Maynard’s father, a strictly teetotal-ling Methodist, almost fired his son from the family confectionery when he heard about the new sweets. It took an effort to convince him that these fruit flavored gummies are perfectly kid-friendly.

It would be an easy mistake to make. Each wine gum is actually printed with the words “port,” “sherry,” “burgundy,” “champagne,” and “claret,” even though the real flavors are more like strawberry, tangerine, and lime.
When I visited some fellow Britophiles last summer, I came away with a bundle of British goodies, including a  package of wine gums.
While Maynards is the most popular brand, the only kind I could get my hands on was Victoria (there are quite a few other wine gum producers, including Bassett’s, Haribo, and Waterbridge). They were classic wine gums, though, like translucent diamond and rectangular gems (other brands also make kidney and crown shapes).
The texture was like a soft pastille, a firm gummy bear, or a very thick Swedish fish. The flavors were not wholly remarkable, just like many fruit chews I’ve had in the past, but I was happy to discover that the black/purple gums are not grape flavored (I despise artificial grape flavoring), but blackcurrant.
They were tasty, unique, and made in Lancashire. What more could a Britophile ask for?

Can you tell me about another strange British sweet?



“Like” Picture Britain on Facebook for exclusive links, photos, and information!

Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *