Cigars and brandy. Wine and cheese. Cigars and rum. Red wine and steak. The pairings are legendary, not to mention delicious. But there is one cracking combination that is often overlooked; that of a good wine and a great cigar. They’re not two luxuries we immediately think of bringing together but, as Christmas looms large, there’s no better time to reach for both your corkscrew and your lighter.
Below, we’ve rounded up our five favourite wine and cigar pairings. From a ruby Rioja married with one of Nicuragua’s best sticks to the ideal cigar to spark up alongside a flute of fine champagne, allow us to open your eyes and introduce you to the most decadent, indulgent matches known to man. You’re welcome.
Pair a Tempranillo Rioja with a full-bodied Nicaraguan cigar
There are few wines as complex as Tempranillo Riojas. Delivering contrasting flavours of leather, cherries and other dried fruits, they’re light on earthy fragrances and heavy on chunky, full-bodied tannins. This then, makes them the perfect wines to pair with cigars from Nicaragua. A land of lush tropical forests, volcanic activity and beautiful beaches, Central America’s largest country produces tobacco as complex and deep as Tempranillo Riojas.
They are ideal for unlocking each other’s nuances and hidden subtleties, the tobacco teasing out dormant flavours from the wine’s swirl of scents — and the hardy wine standing up handsomely to the full-bodied smoke. We’d suggest lighting up the intriguing San Cristobal Revelation, with flavours from caramels to cedar in its stick, alongside a bottle of 2014 Torre Muga.
Bring together an oaky Australian Chardonnay and a light Dominican cigar
Chardonnays that hark from down under are divisive — to say the least. While some swear by these antipodean bottlings, the overtly woody taste puts others off. But, whether you run from or toward the oaky infusions, they are undeniably brilliant bedfellows for sweet Dominican cigars. This isn’t your usual full-bodied wine pairing, mind you — and the flavours interact in a very distinctive way.
The woodiness of the chardonnay — a crisp, light taste — pairs incredibly well with some of the Dominican Republic’s lighter, sweeter offerings. Many of the brands that roll on this hilly island nation have Cuban legacies, and Montecristo is one of the best. We’d recommend sparking up a Pilotico Pepe Mendez, a sweet, medium bodied cigar, with a bottle of 2015 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay — a wine that’s spent eight months in oak barriques to reach peak woodiness.
Marry a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon with a creamy Cohiba
Your classic pairing with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon is meat — something like a hearty porterhouse steak, braised pork belly or rich lamb stew. This is because the concentrated flavours and high tannin levels give it the uncanny ability to cut through most flavours. It’s an ability that also makes it ideal for pairing with some of Cohiba’s more flavourful, sensuous offerings.
Cigars such as the brand’s Red Dot sticks are sumptuously put together. Notes of coffee and chocolate swirl together in the smoke, creating rich, full clouds of flavour that will stay with you long after you’ve burned out. That is, unless, you’ve got a glass of Cab on hand — something like a 2013 Perseid from Napa Valley’s Meteor Vineyard — to use its beef-busting might to power through onto your palate.
Match a German Riesling with a classic full-strength Cuban cigar
Woodiness is an overarching characteristic of all cigars — but the classic, full-strength Cuban takes this particular taste to the next level. Powerful, intense and with a sharply earthy aroma, these traditional sticks tend to be made from a strong blend of Ligero leaves and the overbearing woodiness of a cigar such as a Bolivar Belicosos Finos can be a turn-off to less seasoned palates.
You’d think, then, that we’d suggest pairing this with something fresh and fruity, to leaven that woody accord. But no — we’re doubling down and pouring ourselves a glass of Riesling; Germany’s hat in the winemaking ring. Specifically, we’d seek out a bottle from Alsace — a 2007 Riesling Schoelhammer Hugel hits the spot — where the Rieslings are weightier, earthier and woody enough to go toe-to-toe with the most ligneous cig.
Pour rosé champagne alongside a rich Honduran cigar
As the second-largest producer of non-Havana premium cigars in the world, Honduras has been experimenting for years. Today, from its jagged hills and jungly mountains, some of the world’s richest tobacco is harvested and turned into the most intense, flavourful cigars on the market. And, with tastes as vivid and vibrant as these, only one wine will do; champagne.
Specifically, rosé champagne. Pop the cork on something like a Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé, and its effervescent mineralogy will heighten even further the dazzling flavours of your Honduran cigar — we’d go for a Camacho Corojo. It’s a delightfully decadent pairing but, then again, what are cigars and champagne for?
Already got a favourite smoke? Here are the best humidors to store them in…