AFTER years of Buckfast being associated with binge drinking, Rab C Nesbitt parodies and more serious health warnings, health minister Andy Kerr has revealed he is demanding a meeting with the makers of the fortified wine.

Not put off by the disastrous run-in justice minister Cathy Jamieson had with constituents in 2004 when she suggested banning it from shop shelves - sales of Buckfast actually rose afterwards because of the publicity - Kerr said yesterday that he wants to meet the makers and distributors of Buckfast as it is, in his view, "a seriously bad drink".

Alluding to the mystical qualities of Buckfast, which is produced by Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, Kerr said in a radio interview:

"I think there's something different about that drink that does something to particularly our young people."

"I do believe it's an irresponsible drink in its own right and I've actually written to Buckfast to have a meeting with them."

He added that he has concerns about other strong drinks as well as Buckfast, explaining he was in contact with the manufacturers of drinks which are popular with young drinkers, such as strong ciders.

But Kerr added that he has not made much progress so far with the distributors, saying: "Buckfast have not been, let's say, very open with us around the whole issue."

At 15per cent ABV, Buckfast is popular with young drinkers and those on a tight budget, selling in off licences for less than GBP5 a bottle, and has attracted the tag of being the tipple of choice for neds. Buckfast sales topped GBP28 million in 2005.

Nobody from J Chandler and Co, the distributors of Buckfast, was available for comment yesterday.