Comparing Cigars to Wine: The Parallel is Amazing
By Tommy Zman Zarzecki
As cigar smokers, we often get asked about our passion and hobby. Whether it’s a non-smoker or a casual cigar smoker (a pure novice who dabbles during golf, poker), many people are fascinated by the allure of our premium hand-rolled happy sticks and would genuinely like to have a better understanding of the whole thing. They’re curious and really want to give it a try, but many are afraid to take the plunge, or they’re just intimidated by it all.
One of the best ways I find to get them to understand cigars (from growing them to rolling them to smoking them) is explaining a handful of simple analogies that they’ll most likely understand. So, I like to illustrate the many similarities – the parallel if you will, of cigars to wine. I mean, almost everybody has had a glass of wine in their lives: some drink it occasionally and some enjoy it with every meal or when gathering with friends. The idea is if they even have the slightest understanding of the wine experience, the cigar experience will make total sense.
So, here’s a breakdown of the areas of similarity:
Body – Wines are light, medium and full bodied, basically just like cigars. Now, as a beginner in either wine or cigars, you need to go light and mild. A novice wine drinker just doesn’t start out with heavy, rich Cabs or a peppery Australian Shiraz, the same as a cigar novice doesn’t start out with ligero laced Nicaraguans and power house triple maduros. The untrained palate simply cannot appreciate the complexity and strength of the stronger, richer stuff. Sweet Rieslings and light Chardonnays are the equivalent to US and Ecuadorian wrapped Dominican sticks. As time goes by and your experience grows, you work your way up.
Location/Growing Regions – Climate/Ecosystem – Northern California is ripe for cabs, Oregon for Pinot Noir, there’s Bordeaux in France, The Rhine in Germany and the Tuscany region of Italy. The perfect cigar growing regions are the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, the Connecticut River Valley and of course the Isle of Cuba. The commonality here is that these regions each have the perfect ecosystems for growing grapes or tobacco. It’s a combination of factors that make it so, first starting with the climate: the average temperature, the relative humidity, the amount of sunshine and the average rainfall. Then there is the type of soil and the nutrients it contains that make it perfect for a specific type of grape or leaf to thrive in.
Different types of Grapes/Leaves – It’s simple: there’s a wide variety of grapes that create different types of wines in body, flavor and strength as there are a wide variety of the types of tobacco leaves that do the same.
Harvesting – As in both wine grapes and cigar leaf, depending on the type, they are picked and harvested at different times of the year. And, as in both, some are picked from their trees or plants early in the season, and some are left for much longer periods of time to create greater complexity.
Fermenting – Both wine and tobacco is fermented so the raw product turns into what you want it to become. Bottom Line: Wine is really only alcoholic grape juice. The fermentation process turns it into alcohol. A ripe grape is full of natural sugars that release during the process. As for tobacco leaf, fermentation is the natural process where nicotine content is eliminated as the leaf continues to ripen. Characteristics like flavor, color and aroma continue to develop as the leaf ferments.
Blending – Again, the concept is simple: different types of grapes are blended to create certain kinds of wines producing various strength and flavor profiles. The exact same thing is done with cured cigar tobacco leaf.
Aging – You age wine and you age cigars for basically the same reason, because the immediate finished product just isn’t ready to drink or smoke. Aging allows the flavors in the blends to marry: natural sugars release as flavor, body and strength round out and finally become ready to enjoy.
Flavor Profiles/ Notes – The interesting thing about wine and cigars is that their flavor profiles produce a wide range of tastes that aren’t actually ingredients added to the product, but rather a byproduct of the blending and aging process. Wines can produce a cornucopia of fruit flavors whose list is too long to name. They can be smoky, chocolaty, floral, creamy, buttery, woody and so forth. And once again, a well-blended cigar can produce a wide range of flavors like wood/cedar, dark chocolate, fruit, leather, floral components and creaminess. Both wines and cigars that use premium ingredients, are masterfully blended and well-aged will become complex and their flavors will actually evolve and change as you are sitting there and enjoying them.
Relaxing – Finally, THIS is what it’s all about. There is nothing more relaxing on the face of God’s green earth after a long hard day of work than pouring yourself a nice big glass of vino or firing up that premium hand-rolled stogie. And what’s better than gathering with a group of friends while partaking and throwing the bull for hours on end.
Say, I’ve got a novel idea, how about doing both at the same time while making that exact moment in your life nothing short of pure unadulterated nirvana?
Damn, I’m in… so who’s with me?