Pairings: Are Cigars and Wine Good Partners? Lets Find Out

By Juan Carlos Flores Executive Sommelier, Pueblo Bonito Hotels Resorts & Spas | May 06, 2010

From a personal point of view, how wine and other beverages react with the different kinds of cigars.

Cigars-where to begin when there is so much to say about them? I was studying for my sommelier's diploma while working in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo when the world of cigars first opened to me. From the balcony of the hotel I could watch Ferraris and Lamborghinis arriving at the Casino, people wearing fashionable clothes, drinking the best wines and spirits, and very often complementing the experience with a long cigar. It was paradise for someone who was learning and wanted a taste of the best.

Before work the head sommelier used to practice blind tastings by smelling different spirits and trying to identify them. I began to do the same in order to improve my abilities at blind tasting. It was fun and not difficult to identify a vodka, gin, sake, whiskey, tequila, rum, Armagnac, cognac or a liqueur, but it was incredibly complex to determine the origin and specific characteristics of one glass when we were tasting a group of products of the same kind. When work was finished we used to enjoy a glass of some spirit while talking about the day, and often paired it with a cigar. The combination with aged rums, brandies and whiskies created great experiences. It seems that the years that spirits spend in oak impart weight and flavors that go well with most cigars.

When choosing a spirit to go with a cigar, we need to consider aspects like flavors and the flavor weight in mouth as we do when pairing wine with food. We can think of a perfect example of pairing Habanos with aged Cuban rum where both products come from the same place. The soft sweetness of rum is perfect for balancing the spices of these particular cigars. Of course all rums and cigars show differences depending on how they were made and on the quality of their ingredients.

In order to better understand cigars and how to pair them, let's remember how they are classified and what characteristics are obtained from each type. Though we can find cigars made in different countries, to make it simple let's keep our focus on Cuban Habanos.

The tobacco in Habanos, just as the grapes in wine, must come from the best microclimate to produce the best results. In Cuba the best and most famous area for quality is Vuelta Abajo, where the important city of Pinar del Rio is located, surrounded by the best fields of tobacco known as vegas. Each vega is worked and protected by a particular person called the veguero, and this person has an established link with a specific factory in order to produce the best leaves of tobacco for their needs.

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