Champagne – Cigare
: A little of what you fancy does you good !
Few countries can claim such a close affinity with
their national products as Cuba with Havana cigars and France with
champagne. It is not by chance that a parallel can be drawn between
these two countries and their products.
One easily calls to mind the example
of the French Republic following the storming of the Bastille
in 1789, the face of Che Guevara,
symbol of a revolution, and not least, the resistance displayed
by a little village in Gaul, homeland of the legendary Asterix,
in the face of the Roman legions, easily comparable to the exploits
of those renowned Cubans who defied the whole of America.
A genius is born to suffer hardship, as the saying
goes. In Aÿ and the village of San Luis (birthplace of Robaina,the
only Cuban tobacco grower with a cigar bearing his name) Mother
Nature is a genius. The unusual borderline climatic conditions,
the difficult atypical soil, the doggedness and remarkable creativity
of the men and women: these are criteria which determine the making
of a great Havana cigar and a prestigious champagne.
The Champagne winefield is situated at the northernmost
climatic limit for grapegrowing.These extreme weather conditions
often cause the vinestock to split during the harsh winters. If
necessary, the buds must be protected. Whereas a successful grape
harvest often depends on a providential Indian summer. In Cuba,the
tropical heat is alleviated by “tapados”, a lightweight
textile used to protect the “corojo” ( a high-class
grade of tobacco). Between January and March, the fresh winds from
the American continent attenuate the heat prior to the harvest,
together with light, steady rainfalls common to both regions. Both
soil and climate are prime factors contributing to the success
of the Cuban Végas Finas and the “Grand Cru” champagnes,
the Végas Secondaire and the “Premier Cru” plus
many other Végas and Crus. Mankind has an inherent tendency
to classify achievements!
The same motivating force and expertise are required
to tame these unique and unpredictable regions, the essential
qualities including resourcefulness, creativity and the will to
Champagne and Havana share the same
secret in overcoming the vagaries of the weather: the blending
process. Two first-rate
producing 4 or 5 differrent quality leaves or grapes, graded
into various “crus” and vintages – an artist’s
palette full of promise.
The drying of the leaves and the pressing of the grapes determine
the criteria for the year. Oak or cedar barrels plus two fermentations
are the prerequisites enabling the distinctive characteristics
of each variety to develop and enhance the blend. It is a common
belief that the blending of several years is a mere technicality.
In fact, the process is one of applied mathematics : 1 and
1 do not necessarily add up to 2, but often 3,4, or even 5
fine years, symbolizing the supreme mastery of blending techniques
and the wide spectrum of plurality.
Through patient observation of life
and the hard lessons learnt in the course of their work, our countrymen
have gained invaluable
practical knowledge which has been
tranformed into a magic formula which is the source of the
blends to be found both in Champagne and Havana. In short,
a formula combining expertise, patience and painstaking effort,