vino wine

The pairing between cigar and special wines: sparkling, fortified, flavored

Special wines are a category of wines which following the winemaking process are modified through further processing or addition of components and for which special legislation is envisaged. In this article we will analyze each of these products, trying to outline general rules on pairings with cigars.

The classification of special wines
It is divided into:

  • Natural Sparkling Wines (Classic method, Charmat method) and artificial (carbonated with the addition of carbon dioxide).
  • Fortified wines and mistelle.
  • Flavored wines.

Sparkling wines
Sparkling wines have an overpressure in the bottle of at least 3 atmospheres, conferred by carbon dioxide which develops following an alcoholic refermentation. There are different processing methods to be able to obtain this result and each of them has particular characteristics.

The Classic method
The vinification takes place normally while the refermentation takes place in the bottle. The progenitor denomination of this method is surely Champagne, produced in the same region in France. In Italy there are four production areas particularly suited for the production of classic method sparkling wine: the Trento area (called Trento DOC), the Franciacorta DOCG in the Brescia area, the Olterpò Pavese DOCG in the province of Pavia and the Alta Langa DOCG in the municipalities of Cuneo, Alessandria and Asti.
With this type of processing, the tertiary aromas (spicy, toasted, ethereal) are sought more rather than young and fruity aromas.

The Charmat or Martinotti method
Vinification and refermentation take place in an isobaric autoclave. The areas for the production of this type of wine are those of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene and Asolo, both in the province of Treviso where the denominations Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG and Asolo Prosecco DOCG are produced. It is good to distinguish between these two denominations and that of Prosecco DOC; this production area includes the entire region of Veneto and Friuli and is aimed at achieving very high volumes with low production costs at the expense of the quality of the finished product.
With this type of processing we go to look for a more immediate wine than the classic method; more immediate, fresher aromas are released in the glass, mainly linked to fruity and floral hints.

The Ancestral method
Particular processing method where fermentation is slowed down and then blocked while maintaining a level of sugars that guarantees the refermentation in the bottle without adding yeasts. The wine is cloudy with the bottom of its lees inside and precisely because of this natural process, it is not a totally controllable method.

The Marone-Cinzano method (Mixed)
It was called a mixed method because the refermentation took place in the bottle as in the classic method while to eliminate the lees an isobaric transfer was used as in the Charmat – Martinotti method. The protection of the sparkling wine in the autoclave and the rinse aid and isobaric bottling operations were not simple, therefore the wines produced were qualitatively low. It can now be considered an abandoned and obsolete method.

Sparkling sparkling wines
Production method not used to make quality wines. Carbon dioxide in wine is added artificially. Once the wine is opened, the effervescence vanishes.

The classification of sparkling wines on the basis of their sugar content.
As well as for the processing method, sparkling wines are classified according to their residual sugar content; the following are the wordings that are written on the label:

  • Pas dosé : < 1 g/l.
  • Brut nature: < 3 g/l.
  • Extra Brut: < 6 g/l.
  • Brut: < 12 g/l.
  • Extra Dry: 12-17 g/l.
  • Sec, Secco o Dry: 17-32 g/l.
  • Demi-sec o Abboccato: 32-50 g/l.
  • Dolce o Doux: > 50 g/l.

The pairing of cigar and sparkling wines in detail

The pronounced freshness of a sparkling wine is well suited for pairing with a cigar as the palate is cleaned with each sip through carbon dioxide, allowing you to better appreciate each puff of smoke. The rules to keep in mind are few but fundamental in order to make the best match:

  • It is always good to remember the concordance pairing by structure: light-bodied cigars should be combined with light and poorly structured sparkling wines; medium-bodied and full-bodied cigars should be paired with more structured and persistent sparkling wines. In this regard it is good to keep in mind the type of sparkling wine classified according to the sugar content and (where present for the millesimato wines) the vintage as the persistence on the yeasts and the high sugar content increase the structure and softness of the product.

Fortified wines and mistelle
Liqueur wines are a category of wines with added ethyl alcohol, brandy, concentrated or cooked must; The alcoholic strength must be between 15-22%. For the production and classification of fortified wines, each country gives its own specific territorial interpretation, consequently in this article we will limit ourselves only to describing the various types of fortification.

Types of fortification
Fortification can take place according to three methods and on the basis of each of them we obtain different products:

  • Adding alcohol or Brandy directly to the must: Mistella.
  • Adding alcohol or Brandy to the fermenting must: Porto, Marsala, Madeira.
  • Adding alcohol or Brandy to the finished wine. Sherry and Vins Doux Naturels.

The pairing of cigar and fortified wines in detail

The softness given by the high alcohol content in these types of products goes perfectly with the pairing with cigars. Here too, as in sparkling wines, the pairing rule must be taken into account in accordance with the structure and the amount of residual sugar present in the wine. It is good to specify however that it would be good to avoid pairing a fortified wine that has an oxidative component (acetaldehyde) odor component since it could collide with some notes of the cigar and excessively dry the palate.

Flavored wines
The flavored wines are made with the addition of alcohol, sugar and botanicals which give the product particular aromas and flavors having as its only requirement an alcoholic strength of between 16 and 21%.

Some types of flavored wines:

  • Vermouth: Recognized as a traditional Italian food product (since 2017 the Vermouth of Turin or Vermouth of Turin is a registered geographical indication) it is flavored with absinthe, sugar or caramel.
  • Chinato Wine: Flavored the China calissaia plant.

The pairing of cigar and flavored wines in detail

In order to pair a cigar with a flavored wine, it is a good idea to move towards less structured and aromatically less complex products; aromatization, if excessive, creates an aromatic dominance that could dominate the aromas of the cigar.


In this article the topic of special wines was introduced, starting from their Italian legislative classification; We have analyzed different types of sparkling wines, from the Classic method to the Charmat method, reporting a classification based on the sugar residue that can be found on the label; this type of wine goes perfectly with cigars. We then moved on to fortified wines, whose characteristic is that of being added with ethyl alcohol during the processing phase; here too with small rules, it is possible to make excellent pairing with cigars. Finally we talked about flavored wines, products to which they are added, alcohol and botanicals; in this case, pairing with cigars is more difficult than the previous two, due to the possible excessive flavoring.

Below is a selection of products for the best combinations:

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige
Ferrari Demi-Sec DOC – Metodo Classico
Vermouth Cocchi
Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth
Cocchi Barolo Chinato



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Sommelier professionista (ASPI Associazione Sommellerie Professionale Italiana) in sedia a rotelle pubblicato a livello internazionale con svariate esperienze nella ristorazione e nella organizzazione di eventi. Scrive di abbinamenti sigari - bevande su Gusto Tabacco.