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James Suckling

The Strength of Harmony

Posted: Apr 25, 2007 7:46am ET

About a week ago I had a small dinner party at my house in Tuscany with Giacomo Neri of Casanova di Neri and Vicenzo Abbruzzese of Valdicava. These two guys are some of the best wine producers in Italy, making Tuscany’s famous red, Brunello di Montalcino. I gave both of their Brunellos 100 points about a month ago in Cigar Aficionado’s sister publication Wine Spectator. The wines were the 2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Madonna del Piano Riserva and the 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto.

We drank those wines as well as two other 100-pointers: 2000 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva and 1990 Latour. I was feeling too generous that night. They were some of my best bottles in my cellar. But that is what great wines are for…drinking.

And all four wines were mind blowers. What was amazing about them was that they were powerful and rich; yet they continued to have an elegant, refined undertone. They did not blast you with fruit or tannins, like some modern wines today. It was all about balance. And all of them continue to deserve 100 points.

Thinking about that dinner also made me reflect about what we smoked after dinner. I had a cigar and wine merchant friend from Hong Kong over as well, Thomas Bohrer. I smoked a 1988 Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 (50 ring gauge by 4 7/8 inches) as did Giacomo Neri while Thomas lit up one of my last 1993 Cohiba Siglo I’s (40 ring gauge by 4 inches). My and Giacomo’s cigars were so refined and flavorful with wonderful harmony with loads of tobacco, cedar and dried flower character. I gave it 96 points.

Thomas’s smoke, even though was a short one, was never finished. The guy loves cigars but I guess he found it too strong. I have smoked it many times and it is a blockbuster smoke. And I love it, especially with a rich espresso. But for some it is too much.

I still remember years ago giving actor Peter Weller one of those Siglos, which was from the first release on the island, and he came down in a cold sweat as he smoked it. I swear he was going to blow chow at the restaurant in Havana. “That’s too strong man,” he said, looking like he saw a ghost or something.

I was sort of laughing (as true friends do) but there’s nothing worse than smoking a really strong cigar that OD’s you on nicotine. We have all been there.

Anyway, I think most people prefer cigars with harmony and flavor than simply strength. I know I do.


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