White sand beaches, pre-Hispanic archaeological sites, wildlife-rich jungles, swimmable natural sinkholes, bustling nightlife, a year-round warm climate and locally made wine.
Which is the odd one out? In Quintana Roo – you probably guessed, it’s local wine.
But that is set to change as one family embarks on an ambitious mission to make vino in Felipe Carillo Puerto, a southern municipality in Mexico’s only Caribbean coast state.
The Viveros Aguilar family’s dream began with a single grape vine, bought to give shade to orchids they were growing.
“This project initially started because of my wife,” José Viveros told the newspaper Milenio.
“She bought a plant as decoration … to provide a little bit of shade to our orchids in the garden. The man who sold it to us pruned it and fertilized it and in the first year it gave us 20 to 25 bunches … and in the second year it gave us 100,” he said.
However, the hot weather eventually got to the vine, causing it to shrivel up and die. But a seed had already been sown in Don José’s mind so he sought out an agronomist to help him with his grape-growing endeavor.
“An agronomist came, he thought the project was interesting, he knew about grapes and he said to me: ‘Look, … we’re not going to find anyone here in the region who’s a grape specialist, we’re habanero chile people, .. but let’s give ourselves a chance. Let’s learn between the two of us,’” Viveros said.
They planted vines on the Viveros Aguilar family’s property in the Mayan community of Noh-Bec a year ago and their first grapes reached maturity in June last year.
“What follows now is … to increase [the size of the vineyard] to four or five hectares in order to make wine,” Viveros said.
“… We want to make an authentic regional wine from Quintana Roo using … wood [for the barrels] from the Yucatán Peninsula,” he said.
“We’re going to do tests with caoba [mahogany], chechen, katalox, granadillo, chaktéviga, sakchacaj,” Viveros said, referring to different kinds of timber.
“All these kinds of wood we’ve used to make furniture and houses; we’re going to use them to make barrels and store wine to see which gives us a good result in aromas and flavors,” he said.
And thus Quintana Roo could become the 15th state in Mexico where wine is produced, aged, bottled and sold. Although wine is not yet being produced at the family’s property, tourists have already begun visiting to learn more about the project’s past, present and future.
A tour of the property, located just outside the community of Noh-Bec – situated about 60 kilometers south of the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto – costs 50 pesos per person.
The Viveros Aguilar family’s initiative has been recognized by the state government, which awarded the family second place in a 2021 tourism innovation and diversification competition.