When you are thinking about pairing liquor or wine with a good cigar you want to weigh a number of factors: what’s the flavor weight in the mouth when you are pairing wine with a gourmet meal or food?
Think about how pairing a fine Habanols with any flavor of properly aged Cuban rum – both products share the same origin. And to digress further, the sweetness of the rum is a perfect balancing agent for this type of a cigar and the rum and cigar should be paired with a meal in a complementary sense.
To get a better feel for understanding how to pair wine and cigars let’s think about the overall classification and characteristics obtained from each product. And, to make this post more informative we are going to us the great Cuban Habanos as our gold standard cigar.
The tobacco in Habanos, like grapes in wine, must come from optimum microclimate to produce the best results and products.. In Cuba the best and most famous area for quality is Vuelta Abajo, where the city of Pinar del Rio is located, surrounded by the best fields of tobacco, which are commonly known as “vegas.” Each vega is worked and refined by a single individual usually referred to as a veguero – he/she always has an established relationship with the factory and is going to produce tobacco leaves based on best practices for a type of cigar.
- All tobacco is grown in two ways; in the shade, protecting the plant from direct sunlight usually shaded by a muslin cover and sun grown, which ensures the leaves reach a fuller flavor – sun grown leavers are almost always used for the filler and binder.
- Leaves grown in the sun can be separated into three components, with each receiving a specific treatment during fermentation to optimize them for flavor and quality.
- Fermentation is used to help the tobacco to sweat out impurities, reducing acid, tartness and nicotine.Tobacco can come in just under 100 different tones or shades which help to impact the flavor and make the product eye catching and appealing to the consumer.
- Some cigars like a Habanos can be aged for more than ten years. The fermentation process is a critical contributor to whether or nor you are getting once in a lifetime smoke.
- At the very top of a sun grown plant you will full flavored and slow burning leaves that are classified as ligero, which are thicker and have more oils.
- In the middle are the medium flavored leaves know as seco, which many consider the most important leaf for aromas.
- You will find lighter flavored leaves at the bottom of the plant which are highly prized for the combustibility.
The Shapes and Sizes that Define the Habanos Cigar
There are over forty brands producing Habanos Cigars, and each manufacturer offers their cigars based on specifications in shape and size according to their brand preferences and even Cuban laws.
Each shape and size has a name (vitola de galera) used inside the factory to identify each cigar, as well as the common name (vitola de slida) that the cigars receive in the market. You will find the same name used for the branded product; but not always, this is subject to the whims of the manufacturer.
You best way to classify these cigars is by the shape and measurement starting with a ring gauge of 42 out of 60 units (which is the maximum). The length really defines the cigar; the Mareva also known as a Petit Corona is the shortest stick with 129 mm in length; the next size is a Corona, measuring 142 in lenght and the third most commonly known as the Londsdale at 165mm.
The next shape is Laguito No.1 with a ring gauge of 38 and 192 mm. of length, which will give you a great smoke for 45 minutes to an hour. Then Prominente or Double Corona has a ring gauge of 49 and 194 mm I length, is a cigar in which the smoke is not very warm and is lighter in flavor which shifts to a richer/stronger taste as you smoke it. The Julieta No. 2 with a ring of 47 and length of 178 mm, is also known as Churchill in honor to Winston Churchill, kept one at the ready at all times.
The Dalias is known as 8-9-8 because of the way it is packaged and has a ring of 43 and length of 170 mm; the Robusto, has a ring of 50 and length of 124 mm, with an intense flavor produced by slow burning. Piramide or Semi Figurado has an almost a pyramid appearance and has 50 of ring and length of 156 mm. The Exquisito or Figurado has torpedo like shape with a ring of 46 and length of 145.
The shortest somewhat blunt in appearance size is Perla with a ring of 40 and length of 102 mm; the Laguito No.3 with a ring of 26 and length of 115mm, frequently known as “entre acto” which means between acts, referring to the short time in the ancient days when a person had limited time in the theater during the break for smoking this cigar.
Cohiba flavor strength may be from medium to full flavor in their classic line and medium in their 1492 line. Montecristo may be from medium to full flavor as Vegas Robainas. Hoyo de Monterrey is light and elegant as Fonseca. Romeo y Julieta is medium as Punch. Bolivar and Partagas are considered full flavor producers and H. Upmann is considered between the light and medium strength brands.
Knowing these characteristics, you can relax and smoke a cigars while tasting different wines and spirits. Just about any great Cuban cigar will know go well with whiskey, cognac, brandy and aged rum; but make sure you are matching a good quality brand with your cigar. Quality deserves quality.
Three Wines that Go Great with a Cuban Habanos Cigar:
A high quality Pinot Noir that is aged well from just about any wine growing country in the world encompassing New Zealand to Napa Valley CA, although we are somewhat partial to wines from here in the U.S (even Sonoma county).
If your tastes are more exoctic try a Spanish Abadia Retuert which is made with tempranillo. You’ll find this fresh fruit tasting wine goes great with a full bodied Cuban. It’s truly an elegant wine and something you should consider pairing with a great stick, even if it’s not a Cuban.
Try a great Mexican blend like the Roganto Tempranillo (which has a full bodied taste) or the Nera 2005, also from the Baja Penninsula in Mexico. Both of these Mexican wines (although a bit hard to find) provide a well balanced pairing with a stick, not overpowering the smoke, but enhancing your taste experience.
If you’ve taken the trouble to smoke a wonderful Cuban think about pairing it with a fine beer from Belgium (like the Gouden Carolus Cuv’ee Van De Keizer) or if your taste runs to German Beers think about pairing your stick with a classic Lowenbrau Helles (means light beer in German).