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Champagne Trio at Searcy's St Pancras Champagne Bar

Cigars and Champagne for International Champagne Day

The phrase “Cuban Cigars” is without doubt one of the most famous and highly-regarded international appellations.  Like “Scotch Whisky” and “Swiss Watches”, the name immediately implies the supreme quality of the product to which it is attached, and will be recognised as doing so even by those who have no other knowledge of the subject matter.  In all three cases, centuries-old traditions of one small geographical are are universally recognised as now having reached the zenith of their profession, and setting the benchmark for all others in the sector.

The same can be said for Champagne.  While many producers, from the south coast of England to New South Wales in Australia, bring their own sparkling wine to the market, Champagne is considered the original and best.  Like Cuban cigars, produce must be 100% sourced in the region to be entitled to use the name; like Scotch whisky and Swiss watches, the use of that name is fiercely protected.  The Comité Champagne today works to ensure the name champagne is only used by those who deserve it, and that the region continues to lead the world in the production of the highest-quality sparkling wine.

The similarities between champagne and cigars are many.  Both are luxury products which draw on hundreds of years’ worth of agricultural learning and expertise; both are recognised as being superior thanks the terroir in which the raw material used to create them is grown.  Like the Vuelta Abajo, where the best cigar tobacco is grown, the region of Champagne is relatively small.  More than 16,000 growers are crammed into around 34,000 hectares – only 0.5% of the planet’s total grape production area – and provide grapes to 370 champagne houses.  Just as cigars should be kept in the correct temperature and humidity, champagne should be served shilled to a crisp 11 degrees.  When so much work has gone into the production of an exquisite gastronomical marvel, we should take care to observe the rules for its optimal presentation.

The vineyards of Champagne

The vineyards of Champagne are as beautiful as the tobacco fields of Cuba.  Image courtesy of Comité Champagne; main image courtesy of Searcy's.

Each year since 2009 has seen the Comité Champagne celebrate International Champagne Day.  The 2022 edition falls on Friday 28th October, and will see events to celebrate the greatest sparkling wine in the world held across the globe.  London's own Searcy's, the oldest caterer in the UK, is hosting celebrations at their location in The Gherkin as well as their newly-revamped St Pancras Champagne Bar.  Wherever you are in the world, here are a few suggestions for which cigar to take along to the event you choose to attend.

Quai d'Orsay Senadores

Quai d’Orsay

The most obvious choice for a champagne and cigar pairing must be the brand created specifically to pair with champagne and cater to the tastes of the French market.  Quai d’Orsay cigars are the lightest in body to be found coming from Cuba, allowing them to sit alongside even the most delicate glass of champagne without overpowering the flavours of the wine.  Notes of cream and sweetness will perfectly complement the crisp, fresh fruitiness of the wine and the gentle body of the smoke will harmonise with the lively effervescence of the champagne’s bubbles.  A glass of champagne is often associated with a luxury or special occasion breakfast – Quai d’Orsay cigars also fit that moment wonderfully.

Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure 1 and 2

Hoyo de Monterrey

Not as light of body as their Gallic-heritage sister brand, but Hoyo de Monterrey cigars also can be considered a brand whose smoke and flavours will not prove too robust for a champagne.  The minerality and herbaceous notes of the smaller vitolas in the range will accompany that early-morning champagne sharpener we all occasionally deserve, while the more rich and peppery flavours found in the wide ring gauges will be the ideal foil to a more punchy Blanc de Noirs.

Davidoff White Label cigars

Davidoff White Label

While Davidoff cigars may no longer be Cuban, they are still excellent.  The versions which bear white bands are often lighter in both body and strength, and often have a range of flavours perfectly suited to accompanying champagne.  More sweetness and gentle cream, more wood and hints of spice – these cigars were created by Zino Davidoff to represent pure luxury, and that is what champagne brings to the wine world.  Even with a sweet demi-sec, saved for the end of a meal, a Davidoff cigar will always be at home beside a bottle of champagne.

Just as Habanos SA have reported strong sales growth in recent years, so too has champagne seen a boom in sales.  Over 5.7 billion Euros were spent in 2021, making it the most successful year in history and marking a return to the spirit of joie de vivre which deserted many of us over the previous 2 years.  It is that for which champagne has become most well-known, in Europe at least, in recent times: as a drink of celebration, only drawn from the cellar to mark grand anniversaries and momentous occasions.  Cuban cigars also have this restriction occasionally placed on their enjoyment, but both products could, and should, be thought of and enjoyed much more regularly.  There is no reason for any moment not to be considered special, or for any achievement not to be considered impressive enough to warrant a taste of the best.

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