Bahama Barrels at Graycliff is taking the wine drinking palate beyond the grape, opening up a whole new world in the market of non-traditional wines with its local fruit wine offerings – with tamarind wine, seagrape wine, mango wine and starfruit (carambola) wine among the first of its vintages.
It’s wine that Bahama Barrels’ Paola Garzaroli says will appeal to and satisfy the palate of the sweet wine drinker, but also entice the curious wine drinker.
You won’t escape the potent, heady seagrape scent when this wine is uncorked.
An intensely earthy smell is the tamarind wine.
The starfruit wine is very neutral, but it has an acidity and a nice fruitiness to it.
The mango wine offers a nice mango essence that is smooth on the palate with a bit of a floral essence.
“Our local fruit wines help people expand their horizon – and they might like it,” said Garzaroli, CEO of Bahama Barrels at Graycliff, the country’s first winery.
For those people who aren’t necessarily sweet wine drinkers, Garzaroli said they may be inclined to use the local fruit wines in a Champagne cocktail – mixing prosecco and the local fruit wine to create a seagrape Bellini or tamarind Bellini, and enjoy it because it’s something different, and local.
The local fruit wines were launched onto the market two months ago, and already a number of restaurants are using the Bahama Barrels fruit wines for cocktail bases and martinis, according to Garzaroli.
“It’s just how creative people want to be,” said Garzarolli.
Bahama Barrels’ first iteration of the seagrape wine offers that recognizable seagrape scent that permeates the air whenever you have a collection of the fruit around. After the first bottling, Garzaroli is expected to punch up the seagrape scent, color and flavor even further with his second batch by leaving on the skins to give the wine a more vibrant purple hue. He promises the seagrape scent will not be missed.
The tamarind wine doesn’t miss on this fruit’s intensely earthy smell. It’s like taking a tamarind and keeping it right under the nose. When Garzaroli does a tasting, his tamarind wine is always the last wine to be tasted because it’s that strong.
The mango wine offers a nice mango essence and is smooth on the palate with a bit of a floral essence. It has a roundness to it, and is almost akin to eating a ripe mango that’s not overripe. The flavor of this wine won’t knock you out, unlike the seagrape wine or tamarind wine.
The starfruit wine is very neutral, but it has an acidity and a nice fruitiness to it. It’s very light. Even when the fruit itself is at its peak, it’s not such a strong essence, so Garzaroli has had to be careful to not lose that in bottling, so they place less grape wine into the starfruit wine.
Whenever he conducts one of his local fruit wine tastings, Garzaroli starts with the mango wine and starfruit wine then advances to the seagrape wine with the tamarind wine last.
With four wines among the first vintage, Garzaroli is looking forward to experimenting going forward and expanding the local fruit wine offerings to about eight to 10 different local fruit wines when all is said and done.
“We will be experimenting with some other flavors, including some savory flavors that will be sweet.”
Garzaroli produces the wine in collaboration with a local farming partner who collects the fruit, ferments it at her farm and has the concentrate shipped to the Bahama Barrels winery where they complete the wine-making process.
Garzaroli decided to delve into fruit wines, which is by no means new on the world scene, because he wanted to offer something authentically Bahamian at his Bahama Barrels winery, where they offer everything from the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon to varietals like Refresco – and the best thing for him was to make local fruit wines.
“Grapes to make premium quality wines aren’t indigenous [to The Bahamas]. It’s not cool enough, and the growing conditions for that type of grape is not easy to cultivate here. What’s indigenous here is a grape called muscadine, which is a variation of the muscadet grape, and it has a musty smell and taste to it. I’m not a lover of that, so I wanted to have some authentic Bahamian wine, so the next best thing is, ‘Let’s make fruit wines.’ So I went on a quest and we drove all over and flew to a couple of places and tried fruit wines made from everything from sweet peppers to avocado to strawberries to lychee. So, what is authentic to The Bahamas? Obviously, you’ve got seagrape, mango, tamarind, dilly. The first ones we’ve come out with is the first four flavors – mango, tamarind, seagrape and starfruit, which is also known carambola.”
Bahama Barrels’ first batch was approximately 700 gallons of concentrate. By the time it’s all said and done, Garzaroli is able to produce about 7,000 bottles. And, of course, in bottling the local fruit wines, they continue with the winery’s sustainability culture, with the bottles used being recycled ones from the world-renowned Graycliff restaurant cellar.
Bahama Barrels is producing 50 millileter (ml) sample bottles that sell out like hotcakes along with the 750 millileter bottles.
It is Garzaroli’s hopes that their local fruit wine offerings become popular and get large enough to export.
For now, it’s a unique tasting experience at Bahama Barrels that the tourist market has gravitated toward in an effort to have something authentically Bahamian.
“We’re trying to achieve an authentic Bahamian experience, which is what people come here looking for,” said Garzaroli.
“What I want is for people to take us seriously,” he said of his winery. “The wine is good – even the wines we bring in in bulk to sell. It’s a good product. We actually have some of our wines that are being rated internationally and my goal eventually will be to export some of our wines. It may not be humongous quantities, but at least that will be the end goal. Obviously, the American market has a glut of people trying to sell wine to it, but it’s very plausible it can be done.”