It seems as if there’s a secret society somewhere, judging whether cigar pairings are good or bad. I often hear people say that they were told they could or couldn’t pair a certain cigar with a certain spirit (gin seems to be the exception since it doesn’t seem go well with ANYTHING), and I’ve always wondered where they hear these “rules.”
The cigar and wine industries are actually a lot more similar than you would think. Both the tobacco and grapes are grown in specific regions of their respective countries and then harvested, aged, so on and so forth. Just like wines, cigars from different areas have different flavor profiles that leave the experience completely subjective to whomever enjoys them. It’s not uncommon for cigar aficionados to have an appreciation for wine even if it’s not something they drink regularly. With a palate for detail, cigar smokers can often pick up the same notes wine connoisseurs will.
So . . . what’s the big secret to pairing cigars? Guess what: there isn’t one. I tell people the best pairing is the one YOU enjoy. Everyone’s palate is different, so a pairing that your friend says is perfection could be nothing but disappointing to you! The trick to any pairing (food, cigars, desserts, etc.) is to have each part complement the other. You want the flavors to work in tandem, not be a backyard wrestling match on your palate. Usually the first thing people think of when pairing a cigar with a spirit is bourbon. The dynamic duo rarely disappoints, as if they were made for each other. Wine, on the other hand, can be a bit more difficult.
Wine and cigars can be a tough combination to get to work together. It’s somewhat well documented that white wines in general are probably one of the more difficult varietals to pair with cigars. If you’re going the white wine route, a good chardonnay if probably the best place to start, pairing it with your favorite Connecticut shade smoke. Red wines typically are easier to pair. They tend to go better with fuller flavored, darker cigars like maduros and oscuros.
With all of the different cigar blends and wine varietals, the combinations are literally endless! Finding that perfect pairing requires some trial and error, but once you find THE one, it’s hard to try others. My favorite line from Grease (in the final race scene) is, “The rules are there ain’t no rules.” I think it applies perfectly to pairing since it’s all about what you enjoy!