The climate in Mauritius may not be perfect for growing grapes but that has not stopped them making wine. There is a history of homesick French colonists making wines from the abundance of tropical fruit on the island that has been all but forgotten. Patick Oxenham, the currently director of the eponymous family company has now revived this tradition.
After studying oenology he came upon a recipe in his grand father’s book and decided to to give it a try. After many trials the result was launched earlier this year on the island. Divine Tropical Lychee wine has met with great success in the islands supermarkets and hotels. I was introduced to Divine by Jerome Faure, Head sommelier for the Constance group. Served blind and well chilled the finished product is reminiscent of a Gewürztraminer. Packaged in an elegant 50 cl bottle the wine retails for about 5-6 euros. At 12° it is perfect for an aperitif or even as ingredient for cocktail making, which seems to be a national sport here.
It is the lychee season now, the trees are loaded and every street corner has a stand selling bunches of the fruit in their hard pink shells. The wine is made from lychee pulp, which has to be carefully extracted after shelling and removing the stone. The pulp is fermented with selected yeast over 2 or 3 weeks and then the wine is left to settle for another couple of weeks before being bottled.
The production is currently limited to the Mauritian market. However given it’s success Oxenham is investing in equipment to increase the local pulp production. There are a lot of lychees on the island but currently fruit exports are limited to only perfectly presentable fruit whereas this pulping process can be used for all shapes and sizes of fruit creating not just a great drink but another potential export for the island.