News that Buckfast Tonic Wine is going to be repackaged in 250ml cans for 'barbecue-goers' has generated some barely-stifled amusement in some quarters (i.e. these quarters).
As you'll know, Buckfast is a drink with a certain reputation, a 15% abv fortified wine laced with caffeine that's become closely associated with disorder in the West of Scotland, specifically. The idea that it might challenge sophisticated Pimm's (25% abv from the bottle, but nobody drinks it like that) as an al fresco aperitif is the funny bit.
Another reason for the move, given by the brand's distributor J Chandler, is that it's a response to a call from Scotland's public health minister to make smaller measures of wine available. Buckie mostly comes in 750ml bottles, although half-bottles are available.
It's good that Buckfast recognises it has responsibilities here, and there might be something more in the can, so to speak. There's a school of opinion that much of the violence linked to the brand comes from the glass bottle rather than the inherent properties of the liquid.
Buckie is one of the demonised drinks, along with alcopops, white ciders and others in the past. But it's not the drink itself; it's the way it's drunk, the context, that's important.
Buckfast isn't even that cheap. The new can will come in at 70-odd pence an alcohol unit, comfortably above the suggested minimum price. But will canning it make any difference?
The smaller measure, equivalent to 3.7 units if I'm correct, is less than the recommended daily limit for a bloke, though being in a can means it can't be resealed like the bottle, so you do have to drink it all at one sitting.
And, curiously, one of the reasons for superstrength beers and ciders being popular among street drinkers, along with the strength/price ratio, appears to be the convenience of the can. It doesn't break and it's less likely to get nicked than a bottle containing more alcohol.
I'm also one of those who worries about the caffeine (public health's drug of choice, judging by the stampede at conference breaks). Though, again, there doesn't seem to be a problem with Irish coffee. It's all about the context, you see.
Perhaps Buckie really can be remodelled as a barbecue drink. Pour it over ice into a tall glass and garnish with plenty of fruit, and who knows?