What Are Wine Gums?

If you’re a fan of the mystery genre, as I am, you probably find yourself reading a lot of British books. There’s no avoiding it. And if you’re American, as I am, you may find yourself confused about some of the small, subtle differences between American and British language. For example, I went through chapters of a book recently before understanding that the term “bog roll” means toilet paper. And a “toastie” is apparently basically just a panini. 

One thing I’ve only ever read about in British fiction is something called a wine gum. From context, I have been given to understand that it is a confectionary of some kind, but beyond that, this is one mystery I’ve never been able to solve. But that ends today. So, what is a wine gum, exactly? Where does that name come from? Let’s chew on some answers.

What are wine gums?

Wine gums are a gummy candy that is popular in Britain. They were originally made by the Maynards company and introduced in 1909, but now a bunch of other manufacturers, including gummy giant Haribo, make their own versions. They are less sweet than a lot of other gummy candies and have a more complex flavor. In terms of consistency, they’re somewhere between a gummy bear and a fruit snack

For those curious about an exact ingredients list, here it is: “Glucose Syrup (contains SULPHITES), Sugar, Starch, Gelatine, Acids (Malic Acid, Acetic Acid), Colours (Anthocyanins, Vegetable Carbon, Paprika Extract, Lutein, Curcumin), Flavourings, Vegetable Oils (Palm Kernel, Coconut, Sunflower), Glazing Agent (Carnauba Wax).” So, if you’re wondering, most wine gums are not vegan, thanks to the gelatin (or gelatine as our pals across the pond say). 

Do wine gums have alcohol?

You might very well think that wine gums would have alcohol in them, since they have the word “wine” right there in the name. However, there is in fact no alcohol of any kind in wine gums. They are just fruit candies with a more subtle, adult taste profile. Perhaps adding confusion to this alcohol question, wine gum flavors are usually named after varieties of vino—-but again, there’s no actual booze involved. 

Why are wine gums called wine gums?

The “gum” part is easy enough to understand: Wine gums are gummy candies, not all that different from gummy bears. But what’s with the wine? As it turns out, there’s not a definitive answer. People tend to think the inventor, Charles Maynard, named them this either because a) he envisioned them as an alternative to alcohol, or b) because the candy’s more delicate and complex flavor makes it more suited to adults in the same way an adult beverage would be. Alas, the real reason is lost to history, but whatever it was, the name has stuck. Ironically or perhaps aptly, according to The Sun, Maynard came from a strict Methodist household and therefore probably did not actually drink wine. So, perhaps, wine gums were his way of satisfying a craving for forbidden fruit. 

What are the wine gum flavors?

When we’re talking about the classic Maynards line of wine gums, the flavors are Port, Sherry, Champagne, Burgundy, and Claret. Whether these varieties actually taste like the wines they’re named after is another question. It seems like, despite the name, wine gums are more in line with fruity gummies like gummy bears—though, again, less sweet and less soft. They come in a range of shapes—kidney, crown, rhombus, circle, and oblong—which are usually imprinted with the name of wine. But, again, the flavors more closely align with things like strawberry, orange, lemon, and blackcurrant.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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