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Jan 10, 2023

The Story of a Belizean Turned Winemaker

You would have heard the buzz around a sparkling wine that was made through partnership between Wine Smith Belize Limited and Stig Da Artist. Etre Vu was launched in the U.S. and Belize at the end of December, but in tonight’s episode of Kolcha Tuesday, we sit down with Belizean winemaker Joseph Smith, who is on a mission to educate folks back home about the artistry behind winemaking.  Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Meet Belizean American Joseph Smith – better known as “Fling-Kas” – he’s the winemaker behind Wine Smith Limited Belize. The only Belizean winemaker in the world, Smith has over twenty-five years of experience and produces wines that are sold across the U.S. and Belize.  He is also the owner of JSL Wines, a family brand, and he is the head winemaker for the award-winning Klinker Brick Winery in the U.S.


Joseph Smith, Owner/Winemaker, Wine Smith Ltd.

Joseph Smith

“I migrated to California in 1996 like most Belizeans, seeking greener pastures. You know, Belize could be tough especially for someone that wasn’t going down the right path. A consulting winery firm. What that did is we actually helped growers or farmers that had excess grapes and didn’t have a home for it, we would help them and turn it into wine and then we would help them sell it. So I would travel all over California now, driving from Monterey from far south to far north and we would contact all these small growers or wineries that wanted to just break into the wine industry on another level. So I gained a lot of knowledge travelling the wine region in California so that made me a household name in California where a lot of people, after ten years, people start seeking my advice.”


Joseph says that, along with his team, he opened a location on the Bullet Tree Road in San Ignacio, Cayo. There you can find sixteen different types of wines made by him for which Belizeans and tourists alike can go to have a wine-tasting experience.


Joseph Smith

“It’s not just a business that I want to open, I want to make it almost an educational facility. I want when people come here, they experience wine and they learn something a little bit more than when they come in and that’s what we are doing here at Wine Smith. You might be shy, you might not be comfortable with it, but I want you to know that you are welcomed at Wine Smith any time. We’re different than most wine room. We are education first and then wine second. The beauty of these products is that every single product is made by me. I make every single one so I personally have an attachment; they personally have a connection to it.”


Duane Moody

“You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur for you to appreciate the product?”


Joseph Smith

“Exactly. I think we make product to match pallets because like I tell people, I could deep dive to make a product that every sommelier is going to be amazed by it. But am I gonna make it for him or am I make it for my people. So that’s where it gets conflicting. So you thread the needle between both. I want to make sure the guy right off the street that walks in can enjoy something and I want the guy that knows everything about wine to come in and say your products are good.”


So what’s the process for winemaking? It’s a time-consuming process, as Smith explains.


Joseph Smith

“The process is pretty intense. The process for white wine is from grape to bottle is about eight months, depending on the type of white wine. Red wine, the process is almost twenty-four months, so two years because the red wine normally have ageing in it. So we grow is from spring time, from bud break we call it in March to somewhere in August. That’s when we are taking care of the vineyards and the fruits coming in. August to the end of October is harvest season. That’s when we start bringing in the fruit. That lasts about two and a half months. Once it is in there, it is a nonstop process because it is every day for two months. After the reds are harvest and turned into wine, then it takes another eighteen months in the barrel for the reds. So we age it on the type of oak. Within that eighteen month period, I am tasting it every single month, making sure they are developing the way I want it to develop. Once I think they’ve reached their peak, that’s when I decide that this is ready to go and then we put it in a bottle.”


In 2022, Wine Smith Limited partnered with Belizean artist, Stig Da Artist to launch Etre Vu, French for be seen, a sparkling wine, to add to its collection. It is registered and being sold in the U.S., as well as Belize. But what’s next for Smith.


Joseph Smith

“We might make something that might not sit on a menu for the style of wine that these are, but we may make something that makes every Belizean proud. And when people come and try it from outside, they’d be like I did not know that you can make this calibre of wine. And I think that’s my next goal – is to create something from here.”


Wine Smith Belize products are located in supermarkets across the country and in some restaurants. Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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