Grand Case on St. Martin is often called the “culinary capital of the Caribbean.” Besides delicious Creole food, our status as an overseas territory of France means of course, excellent French cuisine. There are amazing little wine cellars hidden all over Grand Case. To help you enjoy your explorations we have created this introduction to wine and where to drink it on St. Martin.
The basics: region versus varietal
Wines can be named according to the variety of grape that was used to produce it. A wine made with several different grapes is a blend.
While many budget wines are blends, some wines are made with a single kind of grape. A wine made with one type of grape is a varietal wine.
So, you’ll see wine labeled according to its varietal, such as Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc.
However, in Europe, wines are traditionally named after the place they originated, rather than the variety of grape.
For example, a Bordeaux Blend is a blend of several grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and comes from Bordeaux, France.
Where are the best wines from?
When we think of wine, we tend to think of France. The Napa Valley in California. Or West Algarve, in Portugal. Australia’s Hunter valley, Clare valley, Barossa valley.
And of course Italy, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and Chile (Chilean wine is now the top-seller in Japan’s huge market).
However, good wine is not just limited to these wine regions.
The question is: how to choose the right wine for you?
Wine Varieties ― Grape or Region?
Climate matters when producing wine. Some wine varietals grow better in hotter climates; wines produced in hotter regions tend to have a higher alcohol content, and stronger (sometimes even overpowering rather than subtle) flavors.
Hot climates produce bold tastes
As a rule of thumb it’s a good bet some hotter regions will do a better job producing certain wines:
- Chilean or Californian Cabernet Sauvignon
- Argentinean Malbec
- Rhone Valley reds
- California Zinfandel
- Australian Shiraz
These higher-alcohol wines will have intense, fruity flavors.
Cooler climates produce lighter profiles
On the other hand, cooler climates such New Zealand, Germany and Italy’s Pinot Grigio will produce wine with a lower alcohol content and lighter, more delicate flavors.
For example, Chardonnay from the cool regions of Burgundy in France is delicate, while Chardonnay from hotter California can be full of zesty tastes.
A Brief Guide to Budget Wines
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Exploring wine can be an expensive hobby. It can also be risky if you happen to buy an expensive bottle of wine you don’t particularly like.
Happily there are an endless number of sites have great guides to “budget wines.”
For example, here’s a list of 150 wines for $15 and under. Here’s 12 great wines for under $20 a bottle, and 15 great supermarket wines for under $12 a bottle. And finally, here is a list of the top 10 French wines. And the great thing is, you don’t need to travel to France to find these wines — you’ll likely be able to find them in one of the cafes or Bistros in Grand Case itself.
Where to Drink Great Wine on St. Martin
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Grand Case is famously known for it’s delicious French Gourmet food. People come from all over the island to these restaurants that are located all along a broad boulevard that runs along the sea.
Many of these small bistros, cafes and intimate restaurants have hidden stashes of some of the most wonderful wines on the planet.
And since St. Martin is part of France, these are all glorious French wines that can only be tasted if you go to France yourself… or Grand Case, the gourmet capital of the Caribbean.
Take note: late at it night it tends to be crowded; most restaurants are closed on Mondays.
Benjamin Laurent, who has developed a legendary reputation in the Caribbean as a wine importer, has built a popular (and air-conditioned) reconstruction of a wine cellar just outside Grand Case.
While a reconstruction, the food is French and is very good. Bacchus features Stunning starters, salads, and main courses made from top ingredients brought in all the way from France.
Even if you’re not in the mood to sit down, it’s still worth the trip: you can also buy gourmet groceries to take back to our hotel, or phone in an order from the extensive take-out menu.
What about the wines?
In a word, sublime, and you can get an amazing education along with a great lunch. To get there, enter at the “Hope Estate” sign in the roundabout across from the road that leads to the Grand Case airport.
Bistro L’Auberge Gourmande also prides itself on offering the best wine list on St Martin. They buy wine in quantity and “age it under perfect conditions” in their temperature controlled wine room.
The benefit for visitors to St. Martin is that the restaurant is able to offer truly fantastic French wine at a great price.
Before you visit, check over the wine list. There are some truly amazing wines in stock.
L’Auberge Gourmande is located right in the middle of Grand Case.
More wine, more Grand Case restaurants
As mentioned, Grand Case is filled with small cafes, bistros and restaurants (and well-stocked wine shops), each with their own special and unique wine list. For wine lovers (and especially lovers of French wine), our little Caribbean island is, by happy coincidence, a true paradise.
And if you have a favourite wine, or a tip on where to drink it in Grand Case, let us know in the comments!