The best grapes are grown on the bands between the 30th and 50th parallels in the northern and southern hemispheres. So naturally, when someone thinks about winemaking, the luscious grapes of decadent wines from countries like Italy, France, South Africa, and Australia come to mind. However, a trip to Belize will soon have you associating wine with a multitude of things. See, despite the fact Belize is close to the equator, their climate does not allow for growing Vitis vinifera grapes which are used for making succulent wines like Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah. Yet, Belizeans make wine, and it’s glorious.
On a recent trip there, my friends and I stumbled into Healthy Healers Tea Shop. We thought we’d get an opportunity to learn about Belizean tea. Healthy Healers sells tea, smoothies and local wine and as soon as we realized the magnitude of their selection of wine, tea went out of the window. Lining up for shots of Belizean wine, we tried them all and sat down with the knowledgeable shop owners to learn more. As a person who has made wine a few times, I was amazed how creative, knowledgeable and ingenious Belizean winemakers are. I wanted to share with Griots readers, the information I think can be useful when helping you decide which wine to bring home.
Cashew Wine: Contrary to what you’re probably thinking right now and to what my first thought was when I saw the name of this wine, it is not made from cashew nuts. In fact, cashew wine is made by fermenting the cashew fruit. My initial reaction when I took the first taste was that it reminded me of port wine. It was very sweet and had a hint of nuttiness, and I was told the best way to enjoy this wine is when it is served cold.
Soursop Wine: Although Soursop is a very common fruit in the Caribbean, it is thought to have special medicinal properties like anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic. The flavors are similar to a combination of strawberry and pineapple with a hint of tart citrus flavors. The soursop wine that I tried had flavors and aromas that reminded me a lot of a mead.
Hibiscus Wine: Reminiscent of the beauty in its name, the vibrant aroma is engagingly inviting and your tongue experiences the sexy, sweet and refreshing imagery your eyes enjoy when gazing upon this flower. The hibiscus lends a pleasant tartness to the finish, but it is very refreshing. The flavor is fruitier than the nose, citrus, and restrained tropical fruit. Some of the benefits include lowering cholesterol which is similarly found in most red wines. The sweetness is minimal, and any bitterness is all but non-existent.
Craboo Wine: Craboos are small fruits, in the “Bahamian Cherry” family and can be found in the countries of Belize, Mexico, Peru, Brazil and the Eastern Caribbean. It has a distinct medicinal, herbal, sweet aroma. While the smell is not inviting as an open door, it’s more than a door merely cracked. If you gather the courage to push the door open, the flavors you will experience are sweet, smooth, and pleasant. So much so, you will forget the medicinal benefits and feel completely guilt free.
Ginger Wine: If you love the taste of ginger then you like the bite of Belizean ginger wine. To me, it tastes like ginger seltzer or a strong ginger beer. This wine I did not buy, as I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others. However, since returning, I’ve been reading up on chefs who use ginger wine to cook with and now I regret not having purchased it. As a matter of fact, it will be interesting to pair each of these wines and cook with all of them.
If you’re ever in Belize pick up a bottle as they are not sold outside the country. Pack it up, take it home and then ask your guests, “would you like a grapeless wine?”