Traditionally cigars were considered an ideal companion to fortified wines such as Port, Sherry and Madeira.
Somewhere along the way, however, this pairing concept fell out of favor, yet has recently re-emerged as one of the preferred cigar partnerships. So much so in fact, that many American wineries have set aside a greater number of vines for the sole purpose of making port-style wine in order to keep up with demand.
What makes these hefty wines so ideal for cigars is the technique of fortifying the wine with brandy to impart a thick and sturdy structure and taste unlike any whiskey, brandy or any other spirit.
A favorite companion to savory after dinner desserts, cigars and port (and port derivatives) should be in every connoisseur’s line-up of libations.
The red grape-based ruby ports, late bottle vintage (LBV) ports and aged ports all perform as glorious cigar partners, with voluptuous body and taste. The full range of Ramos Pinto and Sandeman ports are favorites as is Warre’s line of liquid delights. Warre’s Hertitage Port is a popular and enticingly affordable fortified wine perfect for any cigar smoking occasion.
For an American-style port, Chateau Routon’s Vintage California Port is a thick port wine that will pair gloriously with a Cuban Cohiba Maduro 5 Secretos.
Once in the shadow of these red-hued ports, tawny port (port that has been aged in wood) has gained the most popularity as of late with cigar smokers. With a unique character often comprised of caramel, wood, toffee, nut or fig flavors, tawny ports provide excellent cigar-worthy escapes.
Dow’s 20 Year Tawny is a wildly popular cigar pairing port that will create a beautiful sensory backdrop to any of a number of Cuban cigars.
The quintessential cigars and port pairing is, of course, a Cuban-made Fonseca Cosacos paired with a legendary Fonseca 40 Year Aged Tawny.
One of port’s often overlooked cousins is Madeira. Made only on the islands of Madeira in a similar fashion to port and using only white grapes, Madeira wines were once the favorite amongst early Americans and were even used by the signers of the Declaration of Independence to toast their new-found freedom.
With deeply rooted historical ties, it seems proper that Madeira wines have been re-discovered by Americans and appreciated as simply ideal for cigar pairing wines.
Often of a slightly nuttier texture than tawny ports, most Madeira wines have the structure and the complexity to pair with almost any cigar imaginable. There are different styles of Madeira that range in flavor and character with Malmsey, Verdelho and Bual being the most cigar-friendly.
The folks at Ashton Cigars, for example, stumbled onto a now-legendary marriage between their Ashton Virgin Sun Grown, Cossart Gordon 10 Year Bual Madeira and unsalted cashews. This simple, yet outrageously delicious combination is truly an otherworldly delight.
For those that wish to ease into the world of Madeira, Rainwater Madeira is the way to go. Rainwater Madeira wines are slightly mellower, sweeter and more affordable than other styles making for a much more approachable experience. Try Broadbent’s Medium Dry Rainwater Madeira with Cuban Flor de Cano Petit Coronas.
Sherry, another relative of port, is a fortified wine made in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain which also offers supple cigar pairing possibilities. Once thought only as the drink of the country club set, sherry is now a major player that spans every demographic.
Creamy, light or dry at one end of the spectrum to rich and complex at the other, sherries have flavors to match almost any smoke. The affordable Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry is perhaps the most recognizable to North Americans and is a playfully rich, full-bodied option for casual cigar lovers and connoisseurs alike.
For a beautifully balanced affair, the González Byass Fino Tres Palmas Jerez Sherry delivers succulent dried fruit and nut flavors that will make for a wildly entertaining pairing with Montecristo cigars.
Boutique producer Romate’s Old & Plus Pedro Ximenez 20 Year Old Sherry is a wondrously thick and sweet offering that will add a whole new dimension of pleasure to an after dinner wind-down session with a Cuban El Rey Del Mundo Demi Tasse.
Pairing cigars and port may appear to be a rather daunting task, yet it is a most rewarding endeavor that should prove downright difficult not to enjoy.
Whether port, Madeira or sherry, each will serve as a fantastic companion on your quest for the ultimate cigar smoking experience. Fortified wines are making their presence known in the world of cigar-worthy libations, finding their way to more and more cigar bars.
If your favorite cigar place does not carry any fortified wines and they have the capability to so, then they should be more than happy to accommodate you. So the answer to the question “Should I try some cigars and port wine next time I’m at the local cigar lounge?” is and should always be a resounding “Yes!”
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