This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, Cigar Box.
When Maria Belén Tudela stepped up to lead the winemaking program for the emerging Cigar Box brand, she became a sort of ambassador, translating the terroir and lifestyle of South America for wine neophytes in the United States. With Chilean and Argentinian wines rising in popularity, the time is right for Tudela and the Cigar Box team to excite new fans with high-quality, value-packed wines.
Cigar Box—named with a nod to one of South America’s other renowned exports, and a clear reference to the toasty tobacco notes developed in certain oaked wines—has been producing 100 percent estate-grown, varietal wines for a decade. During that time, Cigar Box has found a new audience in curious, casual U.S. wine drinkers, many of whom are embarking on their first explorations of these promising regions. Making wines accessible and unfussy, while still offering generous flavor and quality, is key to the brand.
“Cigar Box has a wine style oriented to U.S. consumers, who prefer fruit-forward wines with character and complexity,” says Tudela. “Without a doubt, the biggest challenge has been to find the style of wine we were looking for, with smoky and cigar box notes, without compromising the freshness and the varietal profile.”
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High-Quality Wines from Top-Notch Regions
Sourced from three appellations across two countries, Cigar Box wines are crafted with fruit that’s hand-harvested from the estate properties of Santa Rita. A preponderance of old vines factor into the mix, bringing luscious layers of flavor that truly elevate these wines above their popular premium category.
At the core of the Cigar Box portfolio are three wines, each sourced from the South American region best-known for producing that particular grape variety. The Malbec comes from Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, an area home to some of the most revered names in Argentinean wine. (In fact, Luján de Cuyo was the first region in Argentina to be recognized as an appellation in 1993.) Its high altitude (3,300 feet above sea level) and cooler temperatures leads to stressed vines producing small berries with highly concentrated flavors. This 100 percent Malbec, with its inky color, complex aromas, and jammy fruit, is no exception.
Home to some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the world—in fact, some call it the Bordeaux of Chile—Maipo Valley is synonymous with outstanding, powerful reds. Its alluvial soils at the plains and colluvial soils in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, together with warm days and cool nights, makes this terroir perfectly suited to the production of powerful, balanced, nuanced Cabernets. Fruit for this wine comes from estate vineyards as old as 50 years. Over multiple vintages, this Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with 15 percent Syrah) has earned a range of accolades.
An emerging cool-climate region with dry, rocky, alluvial soils, Chile’s Leyda Valley is a prime site for Pinot Noir. This 100 percent Pinot Noir wine, with its medium body and a burst of bright raspberry fruit, is fermented in stainless steel, with additional aging in light American oak.
Cigar Box’s New Head Winemaker Prepares for an Exciting Future
Tudela personally vinifies the Cigar Box Malbec, while remotely overseeing production of the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, working together with Chilean winemaker Óscar Salas.
With two decades of experience in the cellar, lab, and vineyards that includes ample time managing large-scale production, Tudela was a natural choice as head winemaker. She studied enology at the Don Bosco School in Mendoza, a century-old institution widely recognized as the birthplace of Argentinian winemaking. Subsequently, Tudela worked as winemaker at some of the most recognized wineries in Mendoza. In 2021, Tudela joined Doña Paula Winery and took over as the head winemaker for the Cigar Box project.
Now, an average day at Cigar Box is action-packed. “Once the harvest is done, a regular day at the winery starts by organizing all the tasks ahead for the day,” reports Tuleda, “Then I start the walk through the barrel room, where we evaluate the progress of our wines, pick the right barrels for the blend. Lastly, we start blending chosen elements and proceed to have the final blend ready for the production team to bottle.” Every step results in a superior wine, bringing U.S. consumers a little closer to South America.
Founded as a joint venture, Cigar Box gained international muscle when acquired in 2017 by the global firm Santa Rita Estates. With production facilities based in Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, and Alto Maipo, Chile, and corporate headquarters in both Santiago and Florida, the company is well-positioned to expand and reach a wide world of wine lovers.
For Tuleda, that growth is a satisfying prospect. “Having people choose Cigar Box wines to enjoy a moment of their life really fills me with pride.”
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