Hello from the Caribbean!
I thought I would check in while I had Internet. It’s been a while! As you may recall, I’ve taken a year off to sail the Caribbean with my husband. Until very recently, we were in St. Martin, getting our sailboat ready to launch. You can read all about our cruising life over at wherethewindtakesus.ca, but keep reading for the wining side of life on the island.
Out of all the Caribbean islands to be on, we lucked out with this one when it comes to wine. While the French side (St. Martin) is awesome for finding a wide range of French wines (shocking, I know), you can find a diverse selection of wines from around the world on the Dutch side (Sint Maarten).
As many of you know, St. Martin was devastated by hurricane Irma, and when we first arrived on the island at the end of October, it was still looking a little war-torn. Slowly but surely, however, conditions have been improving. Lush vegetation is growing back and wildlife is returning. Restaurants and shops are renovating and reopening their doors. Overturned cars are being removed from sidewalks and front lawns, and sunken boats are being salvaged and cleared from the water. While it’s not quite back to its pre-Irma state, the island is certainly ready for visitors.
So if you are heading to the island and need to acquire some wine, here is what you need to know. In terms of prices, the French wines are definitely cheaper than they are at the LCBO, particularly on the French side, but the wines from other countries are around the same price on both sides of the Island.
Where to buy wine on the French side
- Super U – the main grocery store in Marigot has an amazing selection of French wines with an itty bitty international shelf. Spending 10 euros on a bottle of wine is a splurge here. They have an amazingly large rosé section (my favourite when it’s hot). Since glass bottles can be dangerous on a sailboat, I am currently making my way through a 3L box of rosé by Roche Mazet from southwestern France. It is very drinkable on its own and with light foods. What a steal for 12 euros! I should have bought two!
- Le goût du vin – this little specialty shop in Marigot has a nice selection of French wines as well as some New World offerings. The staff is quite knowledgeable.
Where to buy wine on the Dutch side
- Booze It Up – despite the name that seems to target teenagers, this store in Simpson Bay offers any type of booze your heart desires, with a heavy focus on wines from around the world. It gets bonus points for delivering orders over $100 US right to your boat.
- Market Garden – just a few doors down from Booze It Up, this gourmet grocery store has a decent selection of wine and has weekly 3-for-2 specials.
- Antillean Liquors – I heard good things about this unmarked hole in the wall in Cole Bay from savvy sippers, but was never able to track it down, despite several attempts. It is known for its heavily discounted prices. Sounds like it would have been the perfect place to stock up!
- Sky Supermarket – both sides of St. Maarten are chock full of little corner stores locally known as Chinese grocers since they are owned by Asian families. Their wine selection varies from Quebec-dépanneur abysmal to surprisingly decent, and Sky falls into the latter category. It’s also a good place to stock up on rum (when in the Caribbean, you know).
Where to drink wine on the island
Of course, sometimes you get sick of being on the boat and would prefer to drink literally anywhere else. In the 7 weeks we were in St. Martin, we ended up having a few favourite drinking holes and inadvertently becoming regulars. Keep in mind they are all on the water, since our main form of transportation was a dinghy. That said, they are also accessible by car or taxi. Here they are, for your wining pleasure.
- Lagoonies – Conveniently located in Cole Bay, nestled in among chandleries, marinas, sail shops and rigging shops, Lagoonies definitely caters to the boating crowd. It has great food for breakfast, lunch, tapas and dinner, and makes a mean rum punch. Live music many evenings. The convenience of its dinghy dock made it one of our go-to places. Be sure to check its hours before you go, especially on weekends. Great place for sundowners.
- Sint Maarten Yacht Club – I drank many a glass of rosé at this boater hot spot. Its name may conjure images of yachtsmen in polo shirts with sweaters tied around their shoulders, but this place is far from it and quite casual. The staff is super friendly and will go out of their way to make you happy. Great place for watching the superyachts pass through the Simpson Bay Bridge or, at night, watching the tarpon jump out of the water. From the menu, try the grouper fingers. They are delicious.
- Bucaneers – An awesome beach bar in Simpson Bay and the perfect place for a post-snorkel tipple. If you’re hungry and they’ve got the grill going, try the drool-worthy ribs.
We worked our butts off in St. Martin getting our boat ready for our Caribbean adventure, and it was nice to have a couple of places to go after a long day where they knew who you were and had your rosé or rum punch in the works before you even ordered. We have set sail from St. Martin but miss it already and know we’ll be back. Besides, my onboard rosé stocks are dwindling!
Sending you warm, sunny thoughts. Happy holidays and as always, happy wining!