“The British are coming!” The Gourmet Boutique is having a full-on British sweets invasion this season…and what a welcome invasion it is! While the store is definitely no stranger to confections from the UK - since they regularly carry Lion Bars and Cadbury bars - they have expanded their array of British sweets beyond the rich realm of chocolate.
I am writing about one sweet in particular: Maynards Wine Gums. Gourmet Boutique carries them in the “log” or “roll” form.
but, for the season, they are stocked with a 540g box, the shape of a truncated rectangular-based pyramid. They are semi-firm, gelatine-based fruit-flavored pastilles and traditionally come in five shapes: Kidney, crown, diamond, circle and rectangle. Other brands have six shapes and are often labeled with oenophile-pleasing names such as port, sherry, champagne, burgundy, gin and claret.
In 1880, Charles Riley Maynard and his brother, Tom, started making sweets in their kitchen in the Stamford Hill section of North London and Charles’ wife, Sarah Ann sold them in their sweets shop next door. In 1896, the Maynards Sweets Company was born.
Charles Maynard’s son, Charles Gordon, heir to their confectionary firm, suggested they diversify into making wine gums. Charles senior, who was a strict teetotal Methodist, thought this was an outrageous idea but was eventually persuaded by Charles junior that no alcohol would be used in making them. Thus, in 1909, Maynards Wine Gums were introduced.
As we have just learnt, Maynards Wine Gums do not have any alcohol in them. Then why are they called wine gums? There are two stories, albeit of questionable origin, about the name. The first one states that after hearing a fiery sermon on the virtues of abstaining from alcohol, Maynard junior decided to market the sweets as an aid to alcohol moderation. Therefore, he named them wine gums and labeled them with wine names. The second story maintains that Maynard junior wanted to market the sweets as so delicious, that they should be appreciated like a fine wine. Therefore he named them wine gums and labeled them with wine names.
Some candy historians maintain that wine gums were indeed made with wine at one point, though certainly not any more. However, being that they are primarily fruit-flavored and wines are produced from fruit, one could argue that they are still wine-based. But that would really be a stretch!
Maynards Sweets have come a long way since then, with their wine gums reaching a value of 40 million pounds sterling per annum by 2002. They are now owned by Kraft Foods UK.
Chewy, fruity, delicious, fun to eat and even somewhat unusual, are all adjectives that may be used to describe Maynards Wine Gums. Who doesn’t like chewy, fruity sweets…?
OK…don’t answer that if you’re one of the very few people I know who doesn’t like chewy, fruit-flavored confections.
The texture alone would have been enough to send my 8 year-old former self to the nearest sweet shop like a moth to a flame. I loved anything springy in texture (my love for marshmallows is another testament) and fruity in flavor as a kid. So, for me eating Maynards Wine Gums is sheer nostalgia.
Some people think the proper way to eat wine gums is by ageing them. The claim is that the sweets are too fresh and thus don’t have the correct texture. So, they take them out of the sealed plastic packaging and put them in storage for a few weeks and shake them every couple of days until – and I am hazarding a guess – they harden. I personally don’t think there is a right or wrong way to eat wine gums. Semi-firm or aged to your preference, wine gums are delightful sweets which can be enjoyed like a fine wine, taking in the aromas of the fruit, or by simply enjoying a nostalgic moment from your childhood. Until my next post, Cheerio!