A South African wine producer has created the world’s first cigar designed specifically to complement the flavours of fine red wines.

Dubbed ‘Series X’, the cigars were launched by producer Mike Ratcliffe under the Vilafonté label – a sideline to the Bordeaux-blend wines (Series C and Series M) made by Ratcliffe in the joint venture with Californian winemaker Zelma Long.

Ratcliffe, who is keen to stress that the cigars are by no means the main focus of the business and ‘just a bit of fun’, was frustrated by the poor match that cigars make for fine red wine.

‘Most are designed to be smoked with a glass of cognac, and murder any wine you drink,’ he said. ‘They just overpower the flavours of fine red wine.’

To achieve a more harmonious match, Vilafonté has blended a cigar in a lighter style using Cuban seed tobacco and a Sumatran wrapper.

‘It’s very much a work in progress,’ said Ratcliffe. ‘We’ve gone through two or three incarnations so far, and see it as a 10-year project. What we’ve learned is that you need the tightest possible coil as this has a positive impact on the smoothness of the draw and softness of the pillow of smoke. We’ve also switched from a Dominican to the Sumatran wrapper as the latter is lighter and sweeter.

‘We have no intention of ever becoming a player in the cigar market,’ he added.

The cigars are available via the company website (www.vilafonte.com) and Ratcliffe says he welcomes any criticism and comments.

‘Ultimately we are working on a very specific and complicated project to match the extremely personal flavours of wine and cigar – it’s not easy and we can’t expect to please everyone.’

Written by Amy Wislocki