Monks' sin over 'false' tonic wine

The makers of the famous Benedictine Buckfast Wine have been fined pounds 3,000 after they admitted that some of their brew was not made by monks.

The sweet honey-and-tonic wine made by monks at their ancient abbey in Devon is sold all over the world. But trading standards investigators discovered that some of the tonic wine sold for export had never been to the abbey, despite a label on the bottle that claimed: "Made by Benedictine Monks, Buckfast Abbey".

Magistrates at Dorchester, Dorset, heard that the imported French wine base was usually taken to the abbey where a secret recipe of spices was added by the monks. However, batches destined for the Caribbean were prepared in Bristol, and then bottled at Dorchester.

J Chandler and Co, of Dorchester, admitted two counts of applying a false description on the labels. The magistrates fined the company pounds 3,000 and ordered it to pay pounds 430 costs.

Caroline Gibson, for the defence, said that the offending labels had now been reworded to read, more accurately: "Made to an original recipe of the monks of Buckfast Abbey".

Tony Joyce, a director of J Chandler, criticised the prosecution, saying that the case had been an over-reaction to a minor and unintentional mistake.

He said: "The prosecution should never have been brought. A friendly phone call would have sufficed."