“Bold wine for bold living” is the guiding principle behind Cigar Box Wines, a collection of straightforward, but flavor-packed premium wines hailing from South America’s best winemaking valleys. Founded in 2011, Cigar Box wants to spread the gospel about three major areas: the Maipo and Leyda regions in Chile and Argentina’s Luján de Cuyo zone. Each is a New World wine hotspot that’s captured the attention of in-the-know drinkers from around the globe. In these regions, traditional varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Pinot Noir take on an entirely new character.
What’s the story behind the name? Cigar Box Wines’ founders were inspired by South American cigar-making traditions in which handmade craftsmanship and adherence to quality is of tantamount importance. That’s why Cigar Box wines are made only with grapes from established “old-vine” vineyards, which produce wines that are bolder, untraditional, and more refreshing. Every piece of fruit is handpicked, ensuring that only the top-quality grapes make it into bottles. But what clinched the collection’s name was one of the very first Malbecs that Cigar Box Wines produced. It had aromatics shared by fine reds: tobacco, brown spice, and cedar — often called “cigar box” — that marry with the red and dark fruit flavors to add complexity. The name stuck!
While other outfits might try to imitate other players in the industry, instead Cigar Box plays by its own rules — focusing on quality rather than quantity. Intrigued? Read on to learn more about these exciting bottlings.
Cigar Box Old Vine Pinot Noir 2020
Made with Pinot Noir grapes grown in Chile’s Leyda Valley, this expression is striking both for its intensity and complexity. Much of this is thanks to the region’s cool, coastal climate, which allows for slow and thorough ripening of the grapes, while at the same time infusing them with a distinctly saline characteristic. Soils here are among the country’s oldest — more than 120 million years old — and are sandy and run through with granite, lending the wines a noted minerality. Leyda Valley is an especially good region for Pinot Noir, which benefits from the area’s characteristic coastal fog and cool breezes produced by the Humboldt Current.
Purple-red in hue with notes of raspberry, cherry, and fresh flowers, the Old Vine Pinot Noir 2020 is also improved by aging in American oak barrels, which contribute a sweet touch of vanilla and caramel. Silky and well balanced, the expression is juicy with a fresh acidity that makes for easy drinking.
So what food pairs best with this characterful Pinot Noir? It’s a fabulous accompaniment to all sorts of fish, from grilled salmon steaks drizzled with lemon-garlic sauce to delicate halibut filets poached in white wine and butter. But it’s also wonderful alongside fresh pastas; try dishes topped with bright, herb-forward pesto and creamy fresh burrata cheeses, as well as pan-seared duck breasts or pork loins served alongside sweet-tart fruit compotes.
Cigar Box Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
This expert blend, which marries 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with 15 percent Syrah, packs ripe, robust tannins and a concentrated, cedar-rich finish that lingers on the tongue. Such delightful bottlings are possible in Chile’s Maipo Valley, the birthplace of the country’s wine industry, which has become synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon in recent decades.
Here, the climate is mild and Mediterranean, with dry, warm summers and cold, wet winters. It famously lends Cabernet Sauvignon a characteristic, rich blackcurrant flavor and earthy undertones. Cigar Box’s Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception: Deep ruby red in color, the wine delivers a medium body and aromas that recall ripe red berries, vanilla, caramel, and licorice. Savory and smoky in equal turn, it also packs notes of black pepper and dark berry fruit.
Such a robust wine requires the accompaniment of equally robust cuisine. It’s ideal served alongside hearty red meats like medium-rare prime rib drizzled with horseradish crème fraîche and tender braised lamb shanks served atop cheesy polenta. Digging something less carnivorous? Pair glasses with a well-curated cheese plate bursting with ripened cheeses like creamy Brie and funky Roquefort, or, alternatively, a gooey layered lasagna blanketed in a smooth bechamel sauce.
Cigar Box Old Vine Malbec 2019
Malbec thrives in Luján de Cuyo, Argentina’s largest wine-producing region. Nestled in a lush valley just south of the city of Mendoza, Luján de Cuyo was the first area in the country to be recognized as an appellation back in 1993. Its high-altitude positioning beside the imposing Andes mountain chain has huge implications for wine growing, tempering the region’s hot, dry climate. Cool alpine winds bring temperatures way down at night, which slows ripening and elongates the growing season without sacrificing the grapes’ acidity. Meanwhile, rocky and sandy soils stress the vines, encouraging the production of smaller berries with more concentrated flavor.
Cigar Box Old Vine Malbec certainly benefits from these conditions, conveying complex aromas of red fruit jam, spices, vanilla, and a delicate smokiness. Intense violet in color, the wine’s palate is creamy and candied with notes of milk chocolate, dark berry fruits, and fresh green herbs. Its velvety tannins help land an herbal finish.
Pair it with game meats like char-broiled bison burgers piled high with caramelized onions and melty Swiss cheese, or pan-seared venison encrusted with rosemary and topped with stewed cherries. It’s also fantastic alongside fattier fish like slow-roasted salmon with fennel, blood orange slices, and chiles.
Have we piqued your curiosity? With these three bottles, living boldly comes easy.
This article is sponsored by Cigar Box Wines.