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Centuries-old histories, denominations of origins, land and tradition as backdrop are some of the common things shared by these products that met at the 14th Habano Festival to close a promising alliance and serve as another expression of the exchanges that began in the wake of that faraway encounter –still unfinished- between Europeans and Cuba’s tobacco 520 year ago.
Famous among the famous, Vinhos do Porto (Oporto) are the heart and soul of Portugal and perhaps the most pampered memory of those times of resistance and struggle against the British empire that, for a mighty long time, controlled its production and monopolized its trade. That development is said to be the reason why brandy was eventually poured into it for the fermentation process in an effort to make it more stable and resistant to changes in temperatures and humidity during the long sea trips imposed by commerce at that time.
Just like the tobacco plantations of Vuelta Abajo –San Juan y Martinez and San Luis in Pinar del Rio- are the birthplace of Habano, for Oporto the fertile croplands of Alto Duero are its best place of origin. Vast grapevines of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriza and Tinta Cao dominate that neck of the woods. They are the mothers of a tradition and deep-rooted culture, a lifestyle, tremendous prestige among sommeliers and lovers of haute cuisine all around the world.
This alliance –the first round was held in the city of Oporto, Portugal last November- sought to come up with the best pairings in the tasting of Habanos and these well-known Portuguese wines in the Tawny and Vintage categories, with five different drinks being presented in each of the two.
The second and third rounds held during the 14th Habano Festival involved a panel of experts –invitation only for 30 people- that includes representatives from the Sogrape and Symington Family Estates companies, Cuban habanosommeliers, members of Habanos S.A., the Tobacco Institute and Smokers’ Clubs, among others. The grand finale will be held on Thursday, the day to officially seal the much-anticipated alliance and to announce the perfect combination between the two outstanding products.
A genuine show of how close together two products bound by their typical origins can actually blend, let alone the love and dedication of the men who grow the crops and make the end product and the wisdom conveyed in bringing these genuine gems together, was the grand finale of the Habanos-Oporto pairing that took place at the Intl. Conference Center in Havana.
Two Tawny-style Oporto wines and two Vintages that had been previously picked during the first stage of the contest, to be escorted by two singular habanos –nobody knew their brands- made it to the grand finale of this one-and-only pairing match.
Most of the votes in the first case went to the Oporto Tawny 20 Years combined with the Montecristo Edmundo (ring gauge 52 x 125mm long), while in the second case the winners were the Oporto Graham’s Vintage 1994 and the Romeo y Julieta Belicoso (ring gauge 52 x 140mm long).
From now on, these selected products will become mandatory suggestions when it comes to bringing a gourmet dinner to a close with those unique fortified wines called Oporto and those peerless premium cigars that run by the name of habanos.
But the best, according to experts, is the will to confabulate, to bring Oporto and Habano much closer, two ways of pleasure that come together as the highest expression of finesse, a genuine form of uniting art in which both Portugal and Cuba rub out their own boundaries to make way for a feeling of complete satisfaction. una sensación de dicha.