Thursday, May 08, 2008


Any Foochow woman who had a confinement in her life would be familiar with the tonic wine,Wincarnis. I was particularly fond of it and would always have a bottle in the pantry, ever ready for a visitor to have a little bit of chicken and mee sua, even when I was not having a confinement. My youngest is now 20, and occasionally I would still find myself buying a bottle and having a glass or two when it is extremely cold. Any friend is welcome to help me drink it, any time really.There is still a bottle in the cabinet.

I have often wonder who started all this almost customary Wincarnis drinking habit. We Foochows have only been in Sibu since 1903. We should be able to trace who started it all.

During a traditional Foochow confinement,the family would make several importnat purchases like old ginger, Foochow Red Rice Wine, a few kilos of mee sua, lots of eggs,lots of Sesame Oil, dried mushrooms, chickens and some Wincarnis and even XO Martell. Friends and relatives would come by bring appropriate gifts and a bottle of Wincarnis would make the best confinement gift for the new mother. A baby gift was not that important!! It might be very different nowadays.

Perhaps I did have a fine head for good wine. After I had given birth I would delight myself with a few glasses of the wine any time of the day. Perhaps I was just having a good excuse to drink.

I found Wincarnis very helpful because I could go to sleep very easily. The sweating involved with drinking Wincarnis and eating mee sua every day, would help one to lose weight. Besides I was told that Wincarnis could help a new mother recover faster and her womb would shrink back very quickly.

Wincarnis as a wine also helped the confinement woman's room to acquire a special fragrance. I felt that a very damp, humid and hot room of a confinement period to be very stale with breast milk. As we could not open our windows to let fresh air in so often, the fragrance from the wine helped a little. Later when I could use the air conditioner, my room was better and I felt more comfortable.

Also, you see, confinement women had to have their food in the room, and not in the kitchen with the rest of the family. So it was of utmost important that she kept her room clean and fresh.

So then why did the Foochows particularly like Wincarnis? Actually I never knew why but it was just the favourite wine for Foochow women. And I guess that it was one product that was well promoted by the Borneo Company.

According to one of my favourite websites, Wikipedia, Wincarnis (which is Latin for 'meat-wine') is a brand name of a British tonic wine, popular in Jamaica and some other former British colonies. It is a fortified wine (14%) made to a secret recipe of grape juice, malt extracts, herbs and spices, but it no longer contains meat. It tastes a bit like sweet sherry.

Wincarnis was first produced in 1887 by Colman's (of mustard fame) in Norwich, UK. It was originally called Liebig's Extract of Meat and Malt Wine. It eventually was owned by Hedges & Butler (part of Bass), which was acquired in 1998 by Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd of Broxburn. Wincarnis is currently made by Broadland Wineries in Norfolk, and sold by Macleod.

Wincarnis is now marketed as an aperitif wine. In Jamaica it is mixed with Guinness and milk. In Singapore, Malaysia and the Gulf it is taken by new mothers as a tonic. It is well known by older people in the UK who use it as "tonic" when not well. Ian McLeod Distilleries marketing offers the ingredients:

"Wincarnis Tonic Wine is a carefully formulated blend of enriched wine and malt extract with a unique infusion of selected therapeutic herbs and spices including gentian root, mugwort, angelica root, balm mint, fennel seed, coriander seed, peppermint leaves, cardamom seeds and cassia bark a natural tonic incorporating herbs traditionally recognised for their ability to combat common ailments and alleviate their symptoms. It is rich in vitamins, especially energy-giving Vitamin B complex, and can have beneficial effects on the circulation system and blood pressure."

11 memories:

Arani Jantok said...

this goes well with kacang ma. i really miss that dish. alot.

sarawakiana said...

yeah. Kacang ma, mee sua, and a lot of other soups especially one Foochow egg, liver and chicken meat balls soup tastes wonderful with Wincarnis. Heavenly Food!!

Thanks for bringing back the nice memories!! have a good day.

Yan said...

Happy Mothers' Day, CY

"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace." (

sarawakiana said...


May the Wines from the Vineyards of the Eden fill your days,
May the freshness of Spring days fill your breath,
May the winds of Christian living lift every step each day
so that you can go forward and embrace your challenges....

penned by me especially for you.....and all Wesleyan and Methodist mothers for Mother's Day.....

Gaharuman said...

I like red wine very much!!

sarawakiana said...

Red wine makes the heart strong too. Good for blood circulation.

Gaharuman said...


Yes, redwine is good for the heart. It is actually the red pigment called anthocyanin that is good for the heart. Howeever too much alocohol can cause artherosclerosis. But moderate amount will be good for health!

sarawakiana said...

ok. It is now quite fashionable and chic to drink wines. Most Singaporeans have acquired good taste in wine. And many Asians also go to visit wine producing areas in the States and Australia.

Movies featuring wine drinking have also promoted wines e.g. Sideways.

there are many books on white wine and red wine drinking.

Do you know that it was the tiny grape that stopped the conquest of Europe by Genghiz Khan?

Free Bird said...

Now I know why it tastes nicer when mother cooks kacang ma..its wincarnis, not tuak.

The last I tried, was with tuak(mistakenly with 4 CUPS! Big mistake, I don't know how I can mistake 4 tablespoons for 4 cups) It came out really sweet.

I want foochow food now *sob*

sarawakiana said...


Wincarnis is good with noodles, when you feel cold, and when you feel low and depressed.

Happy thoughts always....

Sarawakiana said...

Yes I used to look at a bottle of Wincarnis and I felt good already.

And later I would often buy one even when it was not that necessary. Wonder how many Foochow women keep a bottle of Wincarnis ever ready in the food safe or wine display cabinet!! Besides the Martell, Black Label and XO!!



web statistics