“A real connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes of its secrets,” wrote the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí ornately. The handmade premium cigar is no less mystical. However, combining the two worlds creates a completely new dimension of enjoyment.
We have written about the fragile relationship between wine and cigars many times. Two individualists with strong characters that – when combined with finesse and care – make a spectacular pairing. The parallels between the products, from terroir and fermentation to how long they are aged and the final blend, are manifold. However, the potential pitfalls are just as wide-ranging if acidity, aromatic diversity, astringency, and texture are not delicately balanced and coordinated.
As part of the annual Cigar Journal tasting panel weekend, an exquisite quartet of wines and a special premium cigar were once again in top form. In the exquisite ambience of the Hotel Cortisen in St. Wolfgang, Austria, Garage Wines from Chile were tasted with Davidoff’s Nicaragua Diadema.
As the source of the wines, we would like to thank Lobenbergs GUTE WEINE GmbH & Co. KG (www.gute-weine.de) in Bremen (D), who provided us with the samples for this pairing.
The Garage Wine Company is located in the Maule wine-growing region, almost 300 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile. Canadian Derek Mossman Knapp and his Chilean partner, Pilar Miranda Avendaño, founded this gem of the Chilean wine scene in 2001 together with wine scientist Alvaro Peña – as the name suggests: in a garage.
Our hosts Sari Juntunen and Roland Ballner poured the Sémillon 2021 Isidore Vineyard into the first glass. The vineyard’s plot of just one hectare is planted with 65-year-old vines. Partial fermentation in amphorae and 11 months of contact with yeast give the wine its very own characteristics and hints of an orange wine.
Ballner described the wine as bone-dry and idiosyncratic, but of astonishing finesse and with great ageing potential. The Sémillon 2021 needed air and temperature in the glass, but especially combined with the cigar, it quickly ignited fireworks of pleasure on the palate. For Peter Gaudenzi, the Davidoff Nicaragua Diadema and the wine complemented each other very well. The cigar’s creaminess and sweetish spiciness played with the delicately tart, acidic-mineral structure of the wine. Reinhold Widmayer found finely chiseled stone fruit alongside buttery nuances that lifted the cigar. Darren Cioffi agreed, describing the aftertaste of unripe pineapple, with a delicate bitter note and fine astringency.
After the only white outlier in the tasting series, the panelists reached for the bulbous red wine glasses. The Ploughmen 2017 cuvée, a blend of the Carignan, Garnacha, and Monastrell varieties, opened the red round dance. Whole grapes are first crushed by foot before the wine is aged for two years in used barrels. Only 1,500 bottles are produced, and they enjoy top international ratings.
On the palate, The Ploughmen 2017 has a dry, leafy, mineral character, lively and gripping. Bright berry fruit, crisp acidity and fine tannins result in a wine rich in finesse that testifies to its cool-climate origins and reflects an old-world style rather than trendy modernity. The use of used wood with its delicate structure elegantly caressed the balanced Davidoff Nicaragua Diadema – an equal, harmonious coexistence.
The Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Renacido Vineyard is a single-varietal representative that has also been matured for two years in used barrels. A highly exciting wine with notes of dark-animal berry fruit, leather, and black slate. A distinctive aroma of fresh corn on the cob is revealed, while the palate was full-bodied and dense. With its edgy, tart acidity – a recognizable feature of all Garage Wine Co. wines – the Cabernet Sauvignon offered plenty of freshness and drinkability. The tasters agreed that the wine almost overshadowed the cigar, standing broad-shouldered next to the Nicaragua Diadema. Darren Cioffi described the Cabernet Sauvignon as an excellent soloist that doesn’t really need any accompaniment.
The Cabernet Franc Lot 112 2019 Las Higueras Vineyard offered a big surprise. Vines over 116 years old provide just under one and a half kilograms of grape material per vine for this exceptional varietal representative. The winemakers give this wine around 15 months to mature, once again in used wood.
For Peter Gaudenzi, the Cabernet Franc was the most successful pairing. The fruit, tannin, acidity, and charm of the cigar complemented each other almost perfectly. Cioffi particularly emphasized the length of the wine as a supporting element in the interaction with the Davidoff Nicaragua Diadema. Reinhold Widmayer and the hosts Juntunen and Ballner also praised the elegant and complex combination of the two protagonists.
Although the wine initially appeared closed on the nose, it unfolded a lively fruit and earthy depth on the palate that densified into an endless finish. Together with the cigar, the result was a dense, highly complex and aromatic experience that conjured up a pleasant nod and highly satisfied, simultaneous smile on the tasters’ faces.
So again, the tasters reached for all four glasses and did the vertical tasting together with the cigar as the smoke progressed. Sari Juntunen noted that the Sémillon 2021 was one of the most exciting and lively wines. The acidity and freshness of this white wine brought out the individual qualities of both products, with a long finish and plenty of harmony.
In general, all wines enjoyed a little time in the glass and developed full of character and expression, always with their own special touch and the winemaker’s own signature. The density and richness of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were the most powerful pairings with the cigar, while The Ploughman cuvée was more delicate and graceful, even elegant.
All in all, the panel praised the selection of wines and the Davidoff Nicaragua Diadema, each of which was convincing in its own right as well as in their combinations. Further proof that wine and cigar, carefully chosen, can form a fantastic symbiosis.
Sari Juntunen and Roland Ballner: Hosts of the Hotel Cortisen, St. Wolfgang, Austria
Reinhold C. Widmayer: Publisher and editor-in-chief of Cigar Journal
Nikolaus Zoufaly: Cigar Journal’s tasting coordinator
Peter Gaudenzi: European Brand Ambassador of Global Premium Cigars/1502
Darren Cioffi: Producer and founder of Principle Cigars
Reinhard Pohorec: Author
Photos: Nikolaus Zoufaly