Published on September 5th, 2017 | by Greg Roshier0
San Cristobel ‘La Fuerza’/Best’s No 1 Shiraz 2015
Red wine and fish? Red wine and cigars?
If one works as a wine critic, a common question (or indeed, a common request from editors) is what works with this wine or that one? My feeling has always been that if you enjoy both, chances are you’ll be happy. Sometimes a match will be a clanger, diminishing both; far more often, you’ll be happy with both, even if they do not really work as a brilliant match; occasionally, either the food or wine will lift the other; and just now and then, the two will take each other to heights unimaginable by themselves. I suspect that cigars and drinks are not much different.
Now, if I were to guess which drink was most often consumed with a cigar, I’d be very surprised if red wine was not first, daylight second. But does it work? Even though I’ve had the match more times than I can count, I can’t think of a single occasion when I have thought, wow, that really works. But usually I have enjoyed both.
Time for another test. I pulled the San C out of the singles box – no idea of age or how it got there. It was well constructed. Overall, not a bad cigar but not a great one.
What was startling was the initial impression – grilled fish. I swear I am not making this up. The cigar has been in the humidor for quite some time and has never been near a fish, grilled or otherwise. And I’ve eaten more than my share of grilled fish so I know the character. There were no fish around, no power of suggestion (a sore point as I’d come down to the coast to do a bit of fishing but the conditions made it next to pointless). It disappeared after a little while but it was extremely distinctive. Never seen it before. Doubt I ever will again.
After that, a pleasant cigar, a little earthy. It evolved little throughout, though a little caramel kicked in near the finish, as did a rather harsh and grubby note (shall we say, 87?). But it finished as quite a pleasant smoke. So a reasonable one to try with a decent red.
If I had to pick a red to go with any cigar, one with plenty of fruit, soft tannins, reasonable length and good flavours. A good Aussie Grenache is often as good as it gets and a decent Shiraz not far behind, provided it is not too tannic. The Best’s was ideal. From a top producer in the Great Western region of Victoria, it filled the room with lovely plummy, red currant, fruity notes when opened. Generous and with good length (92).
Neither the smoke nor the wine was overly complex. The wine certainly did the cigar no harm but I’d suggest that the cigar did the wine no favours. I enjoyed both. But there was no wow factor, no lift to either. Would I match them again? Not deliberately.
All that said, I know that there are a great many cigar lovers out there who’ll be wondering what is going on. They enjoy the match (cigars and reds, rather than this specific combo) and good luck to them.
And I have no doubt that I’ll have the opportunity to test this theory many times in the future. I’ll enjoy many of those occasions, but I hold little hope that they’ll fall into the category of great matches.