Belize Wine – made without grapes?

Grapes do not grow in Belize, making what many travelers think of as “traditional wine” being imported and relatively expensive. As a result, most Belizeans do not consume it and instead make their own wine from the unique fruits of the country.

Cashew wine is one of the most popular wines consumed and can be found throughout the country. The village of Crooked Tree has its own Cashew Festival, usually held in June, celebrating all things cashew. The wine is made from the cashew fruit, not the popular nut. The cashew nut is removed and goes through an intensive process to extract the poison toxins on the nut that require it to be roasted. (This is one reason locally roasted cashew nuts can be quite expensive, but well worth the price.) However, the cashew fruit can be enjoyed from the tree, or made into wine.

 

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Cashew fruit and nut, cashews are used to make wine in Belize (image by Leslie Sorrell)

Belizeans have a saying about the cashew wine: “Be careful. The next day, when you’re in the sun, you will still be drunk.” So, be warned-it’s strong! You don’t have to go to the Cashew Festival to enjoy locally made cashew wine, though. It can be found at markets, vegetable stands, or even someone selling on the side of the road. If you share with some Belizeans you want to try some local cashew wine, it won’t take long for strangers to approach, telling stories of their aunt or some other relative that has some locally made wine for sale. Other wines that are popular in Belize are ginger, craboo, tamarind, blackberry, or sorrel.

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Sorrel in full bloom, used to make Belize Wine (image by Leslie Sorrel)

Sorrel is a bright red flower and even though the juice can be found year-around, it is considered a holiday drink when made into wine. Bowen and Bowen, the makers of Belikin, release a Sorrel stout for the Christmas holidays. Craboo is a small fruit that grows on trees with bright yellow and red flowers. There are sweet craboo and sour ones. The fruit is a favorite snack of children.

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Close up of the Sorrel plant’s pretty red buds. (Image by Leslie Sorrell)

In addition to wines, it is tradition for many Belizeans to make own fruit juice. Even though there are many citrus farms all over the country, orange and grapefruit juice seem to be more popular with North Americans. It is common to see Belizeans juicing watermelon, cucumber, lime, soursop, and papaya. So, when you go to a restaurant and want some fresh juice, do not just order orange juice—even if it is your favorite. Instead, ask for what fresh juice they have so you get the freshest product and not just something out of a box

While Belize is in Central America, it has the feel and vibe of a Caribbean paradise, making rum the liquor of choice. Northern Belize is covered in sugar cane fields that extract the sugar, leaving a by-product of molasses, that is used to make rum. There are many rums of Belize, with Traveller’s One Barrel arguably the most iconic. (They also make a Five and Ten Barrel.)  It’s hard to find a drink menu without Belize’s signature mixed rum drinks like “Panty Ripper” or “Rum Punch,” while others simply enjoy One Barrel with a splash of water and a lime.

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Sugar cane fields in Belize. Cane is used to make Belize Rum. (Image by Leslie Sorrell)

While I have tried some locally made beer, most Belizeans purchase Belikin beer, stout, or the Lighthouse. Belikin, a Bowen & Bowen product, appeared to have a monopoly on the beer industry in Belize until Belize joined CARICOM, the Caribbean trade union. Now, Belize imports other beers, such as Heineken, Red Stripe, Guinness, and Presidente, but Bowen & Bowen handle most of the bottling and distribution. Mexican, American, and Guatemalan beers are illegal to protect Belizean products.

What will you try on your next trip to Belize?

 

This post was written for RideBZE.com by Leslie Sorrell, and posted with her permission.

 


 

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