winebelize.jpgIn my mind, there’s only one thing wrong with a week’s vacation in the Caribbean, and that’s the price of a good bottle of wine. Not to mention the availability. In every store and on every wine list in San Pedro, Belize, you’ll see wines from nearly every continent, but only the most industrial, inexpensive examples, as if someone made a calculus of the world’s wines with the biggest production, factored by the smallest price, and renewed the order every vintage. Then slapped it with a 500 percent markup.

For how to wash down a dirty banana, click here:

Mostly that’s okay, because after a day sunbathing or snorkeling, all I’ve been wanting is a bottle of the local Belikin beer. I’ve also been diverted by the joys of the dirty banana, an incredibly delicious frozen drink made by whirling a banana, rum, Kahlua, coconut juice, and ice in a blender, then pouring the slush over a small puddle of chocolate sauce at the bottom of a coconut-sized goblet. It’s the adult version of the frozen, chocolate-dipped banana on a stick from the county fairs of my childhood.

Our only real wine this vacation made it onto our table one night at the Blue Water Grill, a good seafood restaurant in the center of the village. The restaurant has a wine list, though again, since everyone presents the same handful of Mouton Rothchild Bordeaux Superior, Black Swan Shiraz, and Mondavi Private Selection cabernet, a list isn’t really necessary. We ordered a Casillero del Diablo merlot, made from Chilean grapes by the Spanish giant Concha Y Toro. We loved it, perhaps because the 50 Belizean dollars ($25 US) we spent on it made us feel like we’d better ooh and ahh. More likely it was the three whole days I’d gone without wine (a record for me) that made me think of ambrosia when it finally touched my lips.

I’d say that yummy, hideously marked-up merlot was our only viniferous indulgence in Belize — if it weren’t for Mr. P’s Cashew Wine. (Actually, since Mr. P’s is made from fermented nuts, it’s not viniferous, technically, and at $8.50 Belizean it’s certainly not an indulgence.) My cousin discovered Mr. P’s at the convenience store down the dirt road from our hotel, and six of us went through almost the whole, cool bottle as we sat outside our villa in the warm nighttime breeze.

Mr. P says he makes his wine “from Belize’s finest handpicked cashews” in a factory at the 2.5 mile marker on the North Highway outside of Belize City; it has a rich aroma of caramel and boozy nuttiness, like the smell of the inside of a whisky cask. Enough residual sugar and loads of caramel, hazelnut coffee, and vanilla flavors make it good for after dinner. It’s not as sweet as, say, a sweet muscat or a port and not as alcoholic (just 10 percent). But paired with black coffee and chocolate bars, Mr. P’s made us want to exclaim, in the Caribbean accent of the island, “good drinkin’, mon.”