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A Frugal Grape Nut’s Guide to Cozumel

by Carey Sutton with help from Eduardo Glen Mora

I was brought up by a wine snob father. To this day when I go home, I ‘pay’ for that first sip with a carefully chosen description.

  “Mmmm! subtly audacious, Dad, yet with intriguing overtones of 18th century ship plank. Fill 'er up!"

My husband and I both appreciate a good vintage -- especially if we come across hidden treasure bargains.    But once we settled permanently on Cozumel, the copious flow of the good-quality, inexpensive-to-moderately-priced stuff to which we’d become accustomed in the states dried up like an LA drainage ditch in August.

When we moved here nearly ten years ago, the local selection was abysmal, limited to the very sweet or the very sour. And both of them expensive.

 

Oh, I expect there were a few good, high-priced vintages available for the odd drug lords-in-res, politicos and well-heeled local businessmen. But all our pesos were going for blockes, cemento, mason’s salaries and the like with nothing left for such frivolities So we got out of the habit, switching, happily enough, to a cocktail hour featuring the fruits of the country, tequila, rum and cerveza.Then came The Day of Judgment..

Cozumel Argentine Wine

Last Christmas my 80-year-old parents decided that Cozumel finally had enough modern amenities that Mother probably wouldn’t get ill from eating the food or drinking the water.  It was time for a visit! I was overjoyed they were actually going to come down. But I was also in a pickle..

What was I going to do about the wine? They wouldn't be happy, I knew, without a couple of good vintages on the table every night before and with dinner.  My choice was shell out a fortune for the ‘high priced spread’ or get busy and find some less expensive stuff that was good enough to compete with what my folks were buying in So. Cal – like the Aussie Columbia Crest white at $7 or less a bottle from Costco. Pictured Right, an Las Moras white. This Argentine label is usually available at the supermarkets on Cozumel and most varieties are affordable and drinkable.

So, a couple of weeks before their arrival, I began my investigation.  And I’m delighted to report that things have improved dramatically on the local wine shopping front!

Cozumel Wine Bar, Olive

The following article lays out what I discovered.I hope it will help other wine-lovers visiting Cozumel to fulfill their guzzling dreams at an at least somewhat affordable price. And if you find out anything good, please email us so we can add ithe info to this article!

Special thanks to Eduardo (Laloh) Mora, a local wine connoisseur and friend who owns the restaurant Le Bistrot and a new wine bar on Ave 5 with Calle 5 called Olive.  He was a lot of help in steering me in the right direction. Pictured Left, interior of Olive, Eduardo's new wine bar and restaurant, formerly called Le Chef.)

Introduction

Yucatecans, traditionally, have never been big wine drinkers.  Beer, rum and tequila have long been readily available at affordable prices.  Unlike wine which for many years was very expensive to ship from one of the few good vineyards on the west coast of Mexico and also expensive to import from international sources.

Cozumel had the additional supply problem faced by all islands—more expensive to get it here from the mainland. And, for many years, there just wasn’t enough local demand to make this economically feasible without charging high prices. Right, Cozumel's only car ferry which brings supplies to the island several times per day when the weather is good

In recent years, however, local demand has increased markedly. This was certainly due in part to the the steady influx of well-heeled nationals moving in from sophisticated cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City. And, of course, there are also a growing number of foreign ex-pats who now choose to make Cozumel their home on a full or part-time basis.

As of this (Jan 2010) writing, there is a vastly greater selection of wine available locally than there was even five years ago. (And forget about 10 years ago!).   Prices are still higher than you will be accustomed to paying in the US – particularly if you’re on the Left Coast.  But you can find some excellent choices in the moderate ($6-12) price range as well as plenty of the high price spread for those special occasions. Right label for Errazuriz Reserva, a reliable, mid-priced Chilean wine to watch for at the stores here.

Click Here for a breakdown of what’s available locally with a few recommendations to get you started with your own shopping.