Local December 8, 2015 | 11:16 am

Dominican South has the Caribbean’s first major vineyard

Santo Domingo.- Wine?From the Caribbean? And no, we don’t meantropical fruit wine, from mangos or “ginger wine” from Jamaica.

We mean wine — fromactual grapes. Made in the Caribbean.

While the Caribbean’srainy climate has often posed an insurmountable challenge for would-be vintners(along with the fact that very few have ever tried it) a project that launchedseven years ago in the Dominican Republic has pulled it off.

The project is calledOcoa Bay, and it’s a broad luxury development in on the southern central coastof the Dominican Republic.

And they’ve done it —produced real, drinkable, rather good wine, with help from wine consultantsfrom South America.

But how? Grapes needdryness, sunshine and enough cooling, and just the right amounts of each.

Well, the microclimatebetween the mountains and the sea in Azua is wine-friendly; it’s exceedinglydry for the region, with just 600cc of rain each year.

And they’re using theright grapes: for example, Colombard, a white French wine grape that grows wellin this area because it has time to mature on the long sunny days.

So is this really theCaribbean’s first wine? Not exactly, but it’s the first major wine project, andthe Caribbean’s first wine-tourism project.

And, plainly, it’s thefirst major winemaking project, one that would be at home in Europe, both indesign, quality and planned clientele.

Ocoa wine

Indeed, there are otherwine-making projects in the Caribbean: in Curacao is launching its first winesthis year with grapes grown on that island, and a small wine-making operationin St John also has its official release in the pipeline, although the latterisn’t growing its own grapes in the USVI.

That’s withoutmentioning Cuba, which actually has the Caribbean’s oldest wine-makingoperation, with more than a decade since the launch of Bodegas del Caribe,which launched at the turn of the century. It’s joined by another hard-to-findwine, Bodegas San Cristobal, the product of an Italo-Cuban partnership.

But wine-makingactually happened in Azua half a millennium ago, when Hernan Cortes came to thearea in 1504 and grew vines and, according to legend, made wine.

So what’s the verdict?

We tasted a bottle ofthe white Colombard.

It’s got an aroma ofcitrus, tropical fruit and oak, with a flavor profile of mango, dried fruit andcitrus.

It’s a medium-bodiedwhite wine with a good, crisp finish.

If you didn’t know,you’d never guess this was a wine from outside the world’s traditionalwinemaking spots. And it’s actually quite good, perfect for a hot day on thebeach in the Dominican Republic.

So what’s next?

After a US$24 millionin investment by three couples, Ocoa Bay has a working vineyard, a restaurant,a wine tasting room, an amphitheater, a bar-lounge, an infinity pool andagricultural facilities.

The next step is tobuild villas, each of which would have access to its own portion of the vineyard(and its own wine stock).

The company also tellsCaribbean Journal that it’s looking for an equity development partner for abranded resort or a fractional ownership site.

Either way, they’vedone something rather special in the southern Dominican Republic.

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