Some cigar lovers may want to avoid hard spirits, but they still might indulge the pleasure of a little bit of alcohol. For them, champagne and cigars can represent a perfect pairing option.
Of course, what one personally find to be a good pairing might not work for other people. We are talking about a highly hedonistic topic here and, just like for many of the finer things in life, it is a matter of personal preference. What is most important is to have a great experience, which is entirely up to each one of us, including the experimenting in pairings.
In this article I want to elaborate on why I believe champagne and cigars can be a great match, and share findings based on hundreds of cigar profiles that Cigar Sense has so far matched with champagne. In fact, the Cigar Sense panelists, as part of the blind testing protocol, indicate pairing suggestions for many cigars.
Advantages of pairing cigars with Champagne
The cleansing power of the bubbles enhances the flavor of the cigar and reduced alcoholic content as compared to hard spirits can offer a higher degree of aromatic perception and finesse. While a white wine might fight with the savory (umami) aspect of a cigar, a bubbly could result in a refreshing effect for the palate
When pairing different edible elements together, and hence champagne and cigars too, we take the most common criteria into account: harmony and contrast. Harmony implies that both elements work together to create an experience that is “greater than the sum of its parts”. Same aroma or same taste can work together. Contrast means that one element “loses”, but augments the experience of the other. For example, sweetness may increase the perception of salty tastes.
Just like in food, there are some key characteristics in the cigar that you might want to consider when choosing a drink to enjoy with it:
The five fundamental tastes sweet, sour, salty, savory (umami) and bitter, to which Cigar Sense adds palate perceptions such as creamy, dry or spicy, among the most frequently found in cigars. They are also referred to as palate perceptions or mouthfeel. Of great importance are also aromas, which are perceived in a lit cigar via direct- or retro-olfaction. Finally, the persistence of aromas and tastes after we exhale the smoke through the mouth. If the cigar has a long persistence, it is better to pair it with a champagne having a long persistence too.
Matching Champagne and Cigars: Tastes
It’s hard to find one cigar presenting just one taste characteristic as most cigars display more than just one. Visually representing all combinations would not provide a clear picture, but the chart below hopefully gives you a good feel for which tastes are mostly present in the cigars that the Cigar Sense panelists paired with champagne.
For example, you could have a cigar with a sweet backbone, complemented by some spiciness and creaminess, and some savory appearance (like a Trinidad Fundadores or a Perdomo 20th Anniversary Sun Grown Epicure). Or a savory backbone and some sweetness, spiciness and saltiness intertwined (like a Saint Luis Rey Double Coronas, Romeo y Julieta Belicoso or a Padron 1964 Anniversary Torpedo Maduro). Furthermore, you can find a cigar with a spicy backbone, interestingly united with sweet, creamy and savory mouth feel (Fuente OpusX Petit Lancero or Davidoff Aniversario N. 3).
A not too high in acidity champagne can marry sweetness, spiciness and creaminess to create the much sought balance within the pairing.
Matching Champagne and Cigars: Aromas
Aromas found in cigars paired with champagne appear as being more disparate in the following chart. The data shows that cigars displaying key aromatic registers such as nuts, sweet aromas, toasted and wood, go very well with bubbly.
Again, it would be even more complex here to show in one chart all possible combinations of aromas you can find in a single cigar that you could pair with champagne. If you wish to better understand which profile each cigar offers, you can ask your tobacconist or walk through the Cigar Sense website (free trial available).
It is worth noting that the intensity of the characteristics we have looked at is overall rather moderate.
In fact, the intensity of the various perceptions is a key quantitative attribute in a cigar evaluation. When marrying a cigar with champagne we may want to watch that the intensities of flavor (primarily aromas and tastes), strength and persistence are not overwhelming. Harmony and balance, again, are key.
This is why many cigar connoisseurs seek to experience the pairing of vintage cigars with vintage champagne. Of course, not everyone has the great fortune to try a Don Candido Seleccion Suprema 502 with a Moët & Chandon 1959.
According to our expert panelists here at Cigar Sense, most standard “non-vintage” champagnes might produce an unpleasant metallic taste. Again, it is important that the champagne is not too high in acidity. Some sweetness usually helps. This is why the best results are achieved with vintage champagnes. The same would go for rose’ champagnes. There are viable alternatives such as Franciacorta, Cava, Cremant, Sekt and most Californian sparkling wines.
This article was first published by Franca Comparetto at Cigar Sense. Visit www.cigarsense.com for more articles and to learn about their project of helping consumers to identify new cigars they’ll love through a personalized system.