Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: July 13, 2023

What Are Wine Gums? Do They Contain Wine? [Updated]

What Are Wine Gums

Many people know wine gums as a chewy candy akin to gum drops but without the sugar coating. 

But what's with the name?

It's a pretty controversial one that provokes debate over the issue whether they are actually alcoholic or not as their name suggests.

In 2009, a Cambridgeshire shop denied a 15 year old young schoolboy from purchasing wine gums, insisting that it was against the law because he was underage. 

So, today we answer two important questions to settle the debate once and for all.

Do wine gums have wine in them? Why are they called wine gums?

A Brief History of Wine Gums

Wine gums were invented by Charles Riley Maynard's son Charles Gordon Maynard in 1909. 

Charles Riley Maynard, ran a confectionery business together with his wife Sarah Ann and brother Tom. 

He was a religious man who didn't touch alcohol so he was at first completely against the idea of selling a candy with the word 'wine' in it.

After a while his son was able to convince the religious business owner that the gummies were actually kid-friendly and contained no wine whatsoever. It's actually thought that they were originally conceived as an alternative to alcohol.

Wine gums in a jar

Mondelez International now distributes the gummies under the name Maynard's Bassetts Wine Gums (they own the popular British candy company Cadbury too). Though wine gums are now available from a variety of manufacturers.

Today, these candies (or 'sweets' in the UK) are popular in Commonwealth countries such as the UK, South Africa, Australia, and Canada.

The US equivalent to wine gums is apparently Swedish Fish Candy. I haven't tried them though so I can't confirm this!

According to Maynards Bassetts, the black and red gummies are the most common wine gum flavors.

Related: How does wine evolve from fruit juice to become alcoholic? 

Why Are They Called Wine Gums?

This is the big question that nobody truly knows the answer to but there are a couple of really good theories. 

The controversy lies in the fact that they contain no wine whatsoever.

So why call them wine gums?

  • The first theory is that they were invented to mimic the flavor sensation of wine drinking. Their firm texture means the full fruit flavors linger like the long finish of a full bodied wine.
  • The second theory is that Charles Gordon Maynard invented wine gums as an alternative to drinking alcohol. Perhaps his idea was they replace alcohol a bit like how nicotine gum works for smokers. Nobody really knows for sure.
Lots of wine gum candy

What Flavors Are Available?

Wine gums usually come in a variety of shapes, each with their own flavor. Classic wine each bear the name of a wine.

The original brand, Maynards, for example has Champagne, Claret, Burgundy, Sherry, and Port varieties.

However, other manufacturers use other types of wine and even other alcohol varieties. Drinks like Gin, Rioja, Brandy, Cider, and Cognac can sometimes be seen.

Flavor-wise, wine gums are usually basic artificial fruit flavors. You'll usually find the colors red (strawberry), yellow (lemon), orange (orange!), green (lime) and black (blackcurrant).

However, they don't usually contain real fruit flavor. Certainly, not Maynards wine gums anyway.

These days you can find special varieties of wine gums too. Tangy editions, and 'red and black only' bags are popular these days too.

What are the Ingredients of Wine Gums?

Still don't believe us that they don't contain wine? Here's what Maynards Bassetts wine gums actually contain. 

  • Glucose Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Starch
  • Water
  • Gelatine,
  • Acids (Acetic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid)
  • Colours (Vegetable Carbon, Lutein, Anthocyanins, Paprika Extract, Curcumin)
  • Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Palm Kernel, Coconut)
  • Flavourings
  • Glazing Agent (Carnauba Wax)

  • Sadly, no wine and no fruit either! I can confirm that they're still very tasty though!


    To wrap up, I'll summarize this guide to wine gums. The key takeaways are:

    1. No, wine gum candy does not contain alcohol and it never has.
    2. We don't know for sure how they got this name. It was either to advertise them as an alternative to drinking alcohol or because the experience when eating them is/was similar to drinking wine (a long lasting fruit finish).

    Can you shed any light on the controversial history? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section!


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    About the Author Tim Edison

    Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
    These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
    Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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