Over the years a stigma has developed about pairing wines with cigars and the effects it has on your ability to taste the finer nuances in the wine. While it may be true that the palate’s ability to discern distinct tastes might be dulled, it is undeniable that wine and cigars are incredibly gratifying pairing partners that can deliver endless joy with every sip and every puff.
Something to consider is that big bodied Red wines typically pair better with richer smokes, while most White wines will be best suited as companions to cigars of lighter structure. There are no rules here, however, so it just comes down to whatever you enjoy! So let’s pop those corks, spark up those cigars and let the good times commence!
Pairing Red Wine with Cigars
Red wines are perfectly suited for cigar aficionados as there are as many wine options as there are cigars, making each pairing an experience that is both adventurous and pleasing. Red wines are typically best suited for pairing with medium-to-full bodied smokes so that the structure of the wine does not drown out the cigar’s flavor.
Of the more popular red wines, Pinot Noir might just be the trickiest to pair with cigars. Pinot Noirs can run the gambit from super delicate in nature all the way to rigid in structure, requiring cigars that closely complement its body. This is where research and asking your local wine shop and tobacconist for tips proves most beneficial. While Pinot Noir wines can be rewarding, there are many other reds to choose from that won’t be quite as temperamental.
In other words, proceed with caution with Pinos!
Many Italian red wines are fantastic everyday choices that will prove perfect companions to any meal and smoke. Barbera and Sangiovese wines are great all-around choices.
A favorite go-to wine for cigar aficionados, Chianti is the quintessential “anytime, anywhere” wine that generally provides for a grand escape no matter your pairing choice. One of the more sumptuous Italian pairings, Banfi 2010 Brunello di Montalcino (made from Sangiovese grapes) is a purely opulent joy-ride when paired with a Graycliff Meritage.
Over the past decade Spanish wines have exploded onto the wine scene delivering some of the most bang for your buck in all of the wine world. With a broad spectrum of entertaining and delicious options, these wines have become extremely popular amongst cigar-loving wine enthusiasts.
Tempranillo-based Rioja wines are exceptional cigar pairing selections, having the refinement to bring out deeply rooted nuances in the tobacco and the firmness to complement a wide variety of fuller-bodied smokes.
South American Malbec and Carmenere wines are also veteran connoisseur favorites, as are reds from the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France.
Firmly built Syrah and Petit Syrah wines will deliver immensely satisfying cigar pairings, as will most California Zinfandels. On and on it goes. Yet it is Cabernet Sauvignon that dominates the cigar and red wine pairing category.
With immense variety in character, Cabernet Sauvignon wines are versatile libations that seem to always get the job done in magnificent style. An Ashton Symmetry Prestige or a Cohiba Red Dot Robusto is an ideal match for a velvety California Cabernet Sauvignon. Harkening from below the equator, the Chilean Casa Lapostolle Casa Cabernet Sauvignon is a more vibrant everyday Cab that will enhance any medium-to-full bodied cigar you throw at it.
Whether from the Southern Hemisphere or the Northern, the Old World or the New, there are an amazing amount of cigar-friendly wines out there just waiting to be discovered. The cigar and red wine pairing possibilities are quite literally endless, so you will just have to take one for the team and start sipping!
Pairing Cigars with White Wine
White wines are not typically associated with cigars, yet there is plenty of opportunity to craft a stellar pairing with a white wine and a good smoke. Less tannic in nature, many white wines just don’t have the structure to compete with heartier cigars, yet this leaves the door wide open for mellower excursions that are at once lively, satisfying and smooth. It simply comes down to discovering what works best for you.
Chardonnay is the most commonly used wine in cigar pairings, due to many spending extended time in oak. An Ashton Classic 898, for example, is a wondrously pleasing complement to a well-oaked Chardonnay, with supple wood nuances working in tandem to massage the taste-buds.
If you are in search of a much livelier interplay of flavors then try a solid German Riesling. Schafer-Frohlich’s Felseneck Riesling Spätlese with an Oliva Serie O Perfecto makes for a delectably sweet and spicy pairing. Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Kabinett Riesling is another exceedingly satisfying choice. Dry or sweet or somewhere in between, these will always add a bit of pizazz to a pairing.
Usually slightly lower in alcohol content, mildly carbonated and deliciously sweet, Moscato d’Asti wines are another alternative white wine that has become a popular “cigar” vino. Going even sweeter still, Sauternes of France are legendary wines that will offer many unparalleled delights. There are other whites such as Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris), Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, etc. that may pair with your favorite smoke. It just takes a little trial and error.
Pairing Cigars with Champagne
Sparkling wines, whether Champagne (France), Cava (Spain), Proseco (Italy) or others, are always great with food and therefore a safe bet with cigars. Be mindful to enjoy these effervescent delights sparingly, as the combination of too much carbonation and too much smoke can make for a most unpleasant tongue-shredding ordeal. Yet the pleasure of a good glass of bubbly and smooth smoke is one of those opulent experiences you just have to enjoy every now and then!
With a plethora of sparkling wines available at seemingly every price point, there is sure to be a good fit for your cigar, no matter your tastes or budget. For a refreshingly easy-going escape give a Macanudo Gold Label Ascot a go with California’s Scharffenberger Sparkling Brut. Spain and Italy also have some wonderful sparkler options including the tasty sippers, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad Cava and Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco. Try Sonoma County’s J Vineyards Brut Rose with a CAO Black Mosaic for a uniquely delicious pairing experience. For those special occasions, there is no better over-the-top choice than a Gurkha Status Torpedo and a Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon!
Pairing with Port
The natural progression from wine is of course to Port wine and all of its cousins. The process of creating and fortifying Port makes for a more voluptuous character that pairs well with solidly structured cigars. Whether crafted in the Douro Valley of Portugal or in wine regions across the globe, Port is an amazing cigar partner no matter the occasion.
There are numerous types of Port, yet the best matches for cigars tend to be Tawny, Vintage, Late Bottle Vintage (LBV), Colheita and Ruby Ports. Tawny Ports have matched the Aged and Ruby Ports in popularity with cigar smokers as of late, due in part to the Tawny’s character which arises out of blends that receive extended aging in wood. Of a more caramel and nutty structure than other Ports, Tawny pairs well with a myriad of different cigars. Graham’s 20 Year Tawny is a favorite that is divinely matched with an AVO Maduro Belicoso. Colheita Ports, or simply single-vintage Tawny Ports, are another cigar-friendly wine that, like the Tawny, imparts a luxurious deliciousness the cigar pairing experience.
Vintage Ports, Late Bottle Vintages and Ruby Ports all lend a natural relationship with cigars as well, providing a wide-range of flavors and firm-bodied character. Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port is an amazingly lush Port that will enhance a Kristoff Ligero Maduro Matador perfectly. Late Bottle Vintage Ports are fantastically well-rounded choices that pair with an exceedingly broad spectrum of cigars. The unfiltered Smith Woodhouse LBV 2001 is a great all-around choice that should prove a marvelous companion to your favorite smoke. For a more casual entry into Port and cigars try a Ramos Pinto Fine Ruby Port with a Nick’s Stick Sun Grown Robusto from Perdomo. Whether a veteran connoisseur or just testing the waters for the first time, these Ports will find a willing and satisfying pairing partner in almost any cigar.
Partnered with Madeira
Madeira wine is similar to Port yet made from White grapes on the islands of Madeira off the coast of Portugal and generally has a wide range of body and tastes, making it another ideal match for cigars. Steeped in history (Madeira was used for the toast over the signing of the Declaration of Independence!), this delectable libation has been a cigar connoisseur’s favorite for generations. The main types of Madeira best suited for cigars are Bual, Malvasia (or Malmsey), Verdhelo and Rainwater. Each carries its own unique qualities, yet all are wonderful cigar-worthy libations. Cossart Gordon’s 10 year Bual Madeira draws out every last nuance of goodness from an Ashton VSG Spellbound and along with roasted cashews proves to be one of the all-time great sensory experiences. Meanwhile Blandy’s Rainwater is a flavorful, yet easy going entry into the world of Madeira and pairs well with almost any medium-bodied smoke.
A recent revival of Sherry wines from Spain have put the luscious liquid back on the map, reaffirming its place as a versatile and delicious cigar companion. Ranging from soft and creamy to rich and spicy, Sherry offers some great nuances to the cigar experience. A fine choice for after an inspired feast and with a savory smoke, Sherry will prove the perfect ending to any day. Sherry wines can be found with all types of character, ranging from the dry Fino and Manzanilla Sherries to the sweet Jerez Dulce and Cream Sherries. Amontillado and Oloroso Sherries are often a little less dry and a little sweeter than Fino or Manzanilla, making them great fits for many cigars. Try the Pedro Romero Amontillado with an H. Upmann Havoc Robusto for a grandly entertaining experience. For a truly voluptuous pairing, the Montecristo Espada Guard will meld in perfect harmony with a Lustau East India Solera. And for the everyday aficionado, there is nothing as gratifying as good old Harvey’s Bristol Cream and a Rocky Patel R4 Torpedo!
Whether it is Zinfandel, Malbec or Brunello on the Red side or Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato or Pinot Gris on the White, whether Port and Sherry or beyond, you are bound to find a wine that will suit your cigar tastes. It is simply all about experimen