The 10 Best Cigars to Pair With Red Wine
By Tommy Zman Zarzecki
Ah, cigars… those tasty tobacco packed cylinders that pair so amazingly well with a whole lot of the finer things in life… good friends, great food, hearty coffee, and as far as libations go, we’re always talking about matching them up with the brown liquors and our favorite beers (relax, buddy, just calm the hell down – nobody said anything about Coors Light, all right?!). But for one reason or another, you don’t see wine talked about very much, which is a bit perplexing – because red wine, in particular, is the perfect match-up with a premium hand rolled smoke. Make no mistake, red wine and cigar pairings are to be taken seriously.
The deep fruitiness and the complexities of some of my favorite vinos make for one hell of a companion to my nightly relaxing smoke out on the back patio. And what’s really interesting is that the way wines are made is incredibly similar to the way cigars are made, and I often talk about those similarities when explaining cigar making to newbies who want to know more. There are many different types of grapes, grown in various countries, in various regions with different climates and conditions, just like when it comes to growing and cultivating cigar tobacco. Then there’s the fermenting, blending and aging processes, which lead to a wine’s body and flavor profiles – again, very comparable to cigars.
Today I give you five reds that I really enjoy and recommend to you when firing up a good smoke:
- Shiraz – A very popular dinner wine from Australia and South Africa. It’s spicy, peppery, deep red in color, complex and full-bodied with notes of blackberry and plums. I’ll have this with a nice hearty steak dinner.
- Zinfandel – No, not “White” Zinfandel, the pink sugar water that neophytes and young cackling hens fawn over. I’m talking about the delicious red that is the standard from California. Very complex with notes of black cherry, raspberry, blackberries and raisins.
- Cabernet Sauvignon – California’s finest, dense, thick and full-bodied, coating the palate with purple and black currants and black cherry. Great with heavier meals, but equally delicious all on its own.
- Pinot Noir – Many come from northern California, but the state of Oregon has really become the premiere growing region. It’s generally a more medium-bodied wine that goes great with things like chicken and seafood. Notes of cherries, blackberry and plum.
- Tawny Port – A dessert wine that’s made for sipping and one of my favorite drinks to accompany a cigar. True Port is made with grapes grown in Portugal. I like Tawny better than Ruby Port as it offers an array of more subtle, complex flavors like blackberry, raspberry, caramel, cinnamon and chocolate.
So let’s take a look at my cigar picks for pairing with red wines:
Arturo Fuente Don Carlos
Belicoso (5 3/8″ x 52) Wrapper: African Cameroon Inside: Dominican
The Don Carlos is rich, spicy, and very full-bodied, and a favorite of Fuente Family fans, with notes of espresso, dark chocolate, wood and pepper. It pairs so well with an Australian Shiraz (love Penfolds) as its spiciness holds up to this bold Fuente’s flavor profile. This is a stellar combination.
Aging Room Solera Sun Grown
Belicoso (6 1/8″ x 57) Wrapper: Dominican Sun Grown Inside: Dominican
This is a medium-bodied stick that boasts one hell of a lot of full flavor! Delicious notes of espresso, citrus, and a nice nuttiness – and since the tobaccos are blended in a style that’s similar to the Solera method used in Spanish wines, this Aging Room is a natural for almost any red wine and cigar pairings. I think a fruity, medium-bodied Pinot Noir matches up nicely here, and the Twill Stormy Morning out of Oregon is an exceptional choice.
EP Carrillo La Historia
E-III (6 7/8″ x 54) Wrapper: Mexican San Andres Inside: Dominican, Nicaragua & Ecuador Sumatra
This dark, box-pressed beauty was the #2 Cigar of the Year back in 2014 because it is simply outstanding. Notes of dark chocolate, nuts and espresso lace this full-flavored, complex work of art. Cap the end of the day off with this and a rich and flavorful Cab and you’ll be in heaven. An impeccable selection would be a California Jordan, a wine that is like drinking liquid silk.
Gran Habano #5 Corojo
Gran Robusto (6″ x 54) Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Inside: Costa Rica & Nicaragua
The Gran Habano has been a longtime go-to stick of mine with its sweetness coming from that gorgeous Corojo outer leaf. Its flavor profile gives off wonderful notes of coffee, nuts, and a creamy earthiness. The complexity of a Zinfandel with its berry and raisin components makes it the perfect mate to the #5. Quivira Dry Creek is a top pick Zin.
Java by Drew Estate
The 58 (5″ x 58 Robusto) Wrapper: Brazilian Mata Fina Inside: Nicaragua
The Java is one of my favorite after-dinner cigars that I always enjoy pairing with a sweet Tawny Port to make for the perfect dessert. This medium-bodied premium square-pressed delight gives off a luscious scent of coffee beans, as the sweetness of the port taken in small sips makes it one of those dream red wine and cigar pairings. Skip the cheesecake and go for a Taylor Fladgate 20 year old. I guarantee you send me a thank you email.
Reserva Gran Cojonu (6 ½” x 60) Wrapper: Ecuador Habano Inside: Nicaragua
This Tatuaje is a full-bodied, full-flavored Nicaraguan complexity that ranks high on many lists, with a peppery start that quickly fades into the taste of rich coffee beans and dark fruit. A great vino to go with the Miami is a Zinfandel that is loaded with dark berry flavors. Damn, what a wonderful pairing – Peachy Canyon makes some terrific Zins.
Inferno Flashpoint Maduro
Torpedo (6 ½” x 52) Wrapper: Mexican San Andreas Inside: Nicaragua
This Flashpoint, made by Oliva, is a deliciously smooth cigar that hails from Nicaragua with a spicy Mexican San Andres wrapper. Full-bodied, but not strong, it’s earthy with notes of coffee bean and dark wood. Love smoking this with a nice spicy Shiraz as the flavors marry so nicely. Boland Cellar of South Africa makes some damned tasty reds.
Trinidad Esteli by Plasencia
Belicoso (6 ½” x 52) Wrapper: Nicaraguan Inside: Nicaragua
Nestor Plasencia Jr. has knocked it out of the park with this Nicaraguan-made offering. It is extremely complex and full-flavored, but not strong or overpowering by any means. The smoke is creamy, thick and smooth on the palate with notes of sweet spice, earth, and a deep woodiness. I smoked it with a sinfully delicious Sterling Vineyards Cabernet and I never wanted it to end.
Rocky Patel 20th Anniversary
Toro (6″ x 52) Wrapper: Honduras Inside: Honduras & Nicaragua
The Rocky 20th is a hell of a decadent cigar, dark, box-pressed, full-bodied, and silky-smooth. Pronounced notes of wood, espresso, and cocoa lace the palate with a sweet smack of cinnamon. When I light up an ultra-premium cigar of this caliber, it’s often after a hearty dinner and paired with a Tawny Port for dessert. Go for a Fonseca 20 year old with its warm fruit, cinnamon and butterscotch notes and life will have a hard time getting any better than this.
Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real
Magnum (6″ x 60) Wrapper: Ecuador Connecticut Inside: Dominican Republic & Nicaragua
While the Reserva Real sports a smooth, creamy, lighter colored Ecuadorian wrapper, the inner blend is spicy and full, giving the cigar a nice medium-bodied profile. It’s woody and nutty with a hint of peppery spice. The perfect pairing would be with a nice, medium-bodied Pinot Noir, and Holdredge Russian River Valley from California makes a wonderfully fruity concoction with ripe cherry flavors.
So, I hope I got your palate ready to shake things up a bit from the usual whiskey or beer nightcap, and try some super flavorful red wine and cigar pairings. The comment section is below, and we’d love to hear what you think!