Wine In Belize…Why SO Expensive & An Exciting New BELIZEAN Wine to Taste

Almost every drop of wine that we drink in restaurants, at home and bars around Belize is imported.   And that’s not terribly surprising since grapes don’t grow well in the tropics, if at all.  But what does surprise some people is the price.   STICKER SHOCK!   Wines that are cheap/reasonable in the States, Europe or Canada are EXPENSIVE here.

Wines like this…

barefoot

which retail for about $5US abroad (or less), cost about $30bzd or $15US here.  And yes, it is pricier because it is shipped to Belize but there is also a decent sized duty levied on the cases – a heavy revenue replacement duty to protect local winemakers.

Which seems slightly odd since comparing local wine and imported grape wines & champanges is basically apples to oranges.  The word “wine” being used in the broadest sense – an alcoholic drink made from fermented fruit juice.

Please note that I have never tried the wines from Belize’s Bel-Mer Winery.  Would love to hear if you have.  (Check out this very cool post written on alcoholprofessor.com – Boozing in Belize.  He tastes just about everything on his honeymoon.)

belmar

Local wines like cashew (bottled by Travellers’ Rum for instance) and those made by some at home taste NOTHING like your typical grape pinot grigio or merlot.

How can you NOT taste something called PucunuBoy?

winesMost blends are basically made from mashed fruits (or as you can see above vegetables) and LOADS of sugar.  Often syrupy sweet…they are an acquired taste.  And if anything, a sweet liqueur/aperitif (at their best) or jail house hooch (at their worse) rather than a wine.

(N.B.  I have never tasted jail house hooch aka prison wine aka pruno but I’ve seen it made from ketchup, bread and sugar packets on many episodes of “Lock-Down” and I have a vivid imagination.  Here’s a recipe if you’d like to make your own – brewed in a garbage bag – Day 9: invite the friends over for a cocktail party)

The hangover one can acquire from some of the local wine home brews can be…epic.

local winesSO…a few nights ago, when I met Justin, a young American expat giving free tests of a Sorrel Wine he is producing, I was nervous.

ice cold

His family owns 100 acres in Unitedville, Cayo – on it a jungle lodge at Lower Dover.  A place I’ve been dying to visit.  A spot named by the Brits (YEARS ago) for the large white rocks in the river (think the White Cliffs of Dover) AND from what I hear, a huge Maya site that is largely unexcavated.  An archaeology enthusiast’s dream.

Justin is using a traditional Belizean ingredient, sorrel or jamaica, usually used around Christmas to make a wine.  (Or thing Red Zinger tea.)  But here’s the thing…it’s NOT super sweet and sugary.

super-food-sorrel

He’s making Rosé wine.  And he brought quite a few bottles to the SAGA Fundraiser this week for tasting and…people really REALLY liked it!

It’s called Swirly Head Rose.  100% organic.  100% made in Belize.

swirly head

It needs to be chilled.  He had one bottle ready and poured it for two wine drinkers but not hard-core aficionados sitting near me.  Justin suggest three sips to properly get the flavor.

And the tasting began.  No nose wrinkling…in fact, looks of pleasant surprise.

Here is what I heard:  “It starts almost like a sherry.”  “Not dry but definitely not super sweet”.  “A tasty wine to drink chilled on a summer day with friends”.  “If I didn’t know, I would have no reason to doubt this wasn’t grapes”.

That last one is a doozy…a triple negative?

THEY LIKE IT!

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Justin…you might have something here.  Every day is a summer day in Belize.  It is currently being offered at restaurants in Placencia – like Rumfish y Vino (Y VINO!) and Justin is trying to make his way into the Ambergris market doing tastings like this.

And even more interesting, he is working on a Pinot Grigio using Starfruit!  Wouldn’t that just make the most gorgeous sangria.

sorrel sangria

So let’s get to the bottom line:  Where can you taste/buy this Belizean wine?  Justin named a few places that had made purchases but the only definite that I have is LOLA’S PUB.

The bar that has the largest selection of alcohol in San Pedro and I would venture to guess…Belize.

I stopped by yesterday for a soda water on a hot day, to write some postcards and inquire…

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They are selling it by the glass, chilled, for $10bzd or by the bottle.  I would love to know what you think.  Belizean wine…cum up!

Note:  If you are visiting Belize, you are allowed to bring in duty-free one liter of wine or spirits.  There is also an additional option – a duty free shop by the baggage claim area at the Belize International Airport.  Where you can buy up to 6 bottles duty free.

See this post for details.

In all of my travels, it may be the only duty free shop that I’ve seen AFTER you clear customs.  Has anyone seen another?

Note Also:  We do have importers of wine that buy bulk and help get some much better prices if you like to buy wine to drink at home.  Wine De Vine in San Pedro has an EXCELLENT selection.  And is also a great place to stop for a glass of wine and a cheese plate.  They’ve got the good stuff in here.

 

 






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  • Dennis

    The Belize duty free is great, but technically it’s after you clear immigration, and before you clear customs. Same thing can be found in both Trinidad, Colombia, and I believe Ecuador

    • Belize Blog

      Thank you! Now THAT’S the scoop!

  • Wayne

    As highlighted by Dennis, the Duty free at Phillip Goldson Int’l Belize City is in between customs and immigration.

    It is the same in Kingston, Jamaica, after clearing immigration there is a large duty free store.

    • Belize Blog

      Interesting…I thought it might be Belize specific. It’s certainly handy for alcohol, cigarettes and perfume. I wonder what sort of license…or deal with the government this store has…

  • dajewel

    you can purchase at two duty free stores as soon as you clear customs in trinidad and tobago

  • Rob

    I own a wine store in Canada and have a place on Ambergris Caye. I have been to all the different stores that sell wine in San Pedro. Most stores do not store the wine properly(way to warm) but there are a few that do. However, Wine De Vine is super outrageously priced. I have vast knowledge of relative prices of wines. They are careful to not carry the same as others. However if you compared 2 different malbecs from Argentina that should be identical in price, one at Wine De Vine, and one at Premium Wines on front street, you will pay 5 american more at Wine De Vine.