They may be called wine gums, but they don’t contain a drop of alcohol. Although, we did read one news story about a teenager who was told he couldn’t buy wine gums in a discount store because the cashier mistakenly thought he needed to be over the legal drinking age to purchase them.
So, if they aren’t made of wine why are they called wine gums? Some people say the original recipes for wine gums did contain wine while others claim they never have.
They were originally made by British confectionery maker Charles Gordon Maynard who, it is thought, needed to convince his father that the new sweets would not offend his staunch Methodist principles because they would not contain alcohol.
There are two theories. One, is after hearing a sermon about temperance, Maynard junior decided to market his sweets as a way to enjoy wine flavours without consuming alcohol. Therefore, he called them Wine Gums and stamped them with wine names. The second theory is that he wanted his creations to be thought of as being so good, they should be appreciated in the same way as a fine wine.
Maynard’s Wine Gums were eventually introduced in 1909 and debate has raged among lovers of the sweets since then about what they taste like. Is it wine or is it fruit? Well they do have a greater depth of flavour than many fruit gums targeted at children and it could be argued that, since they taste of fruit, and wine tastes of fruit, then they taste a little bit like wine.
All brands have their own recipes and many keep them a closely guarded secret, refusing even to reveal what the flavours are meant to be. The Allan Candy Company, however did say its flavours are as follows: Red is raspberry; orange is, not surprisingly, orange; yellow is lemon; green is lime; white is grapefruit and black is blackcurrant.
The Red Wine Gum
The red wine gum could be meant to taste like a red wine or a port. It’s often stamped with ‘port’. But, presumably, its flavour is supposed to be red-coloured fruit like raspberry, strawberry, cherry or redcurrant. It could be a little like Tempranillo which typically has full-bodied cherry flavours.
The Black Wine Gum
This one divides opinion. It’s some people’s favourite while others leave these ones at the bottom of the packet. The taste depends on which brand of wine gums you go for. Sometimes it tastes a bit liquoricey, but mostly the dominant flavour is blackberry. The nearest wine taste is probably the Mencia grape, which is Spain’s answer to Beaujolais and tastes like blackcurrant and mulberry.
The Yellow Wine Gum
Most people agree that the yellow wine gum tastes like lemon. The Godello grape produces wines which combine lemon with a bit of melon or the Verdejo has aromas of lemon and grass, a little bit like Sauvignon Blanc.
The Orange Wine Gum
Again, this one’s easy. No one would disagree that this one tastes like oranges or tangerines. For its wine equivalent try orange wine, or Vino Naranja, which is produced in Andalucía, where white wine is macerated with orange peel following a period of aging. There’s also a sweet version, Moscatel Naranja, produced in Malaga where orange peels are macerated in alcohol distilled from wine and this is added to sweet muscatel wine.
The Green Wine Gum
Not much debate here. Most people think the green gum tastes like lime. Albariño often has lime flavours. Although it’s much more complex than this. You’ll find crisp apples, a bit of peach, some pineapple and even a little saltiness too.
The White Wine Gum
This one is probably the wine gum which causes most discussion. After all, many can’t even agree on what colour it is. White? Pale Yellow? Cream? Taupe? Whatever the colour, it’s often stamped with ‘Champagne’. It’s been described as white grape, grapefruit, pear and pineapple. Chardonnay can have pineapple notes while Chenin Blanc often tastes like pear, or you could get lovely pear aromas in a good Cava.
Whatever the flavours, no sweet could hope to have the depth and complexity of a fine wine, but that’s not to say the tastes aren’t reminiscent of some wine flavours.