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The world of wine and cigars: A conversation with Fabio Cordella

This month, we had the opportunity to talk to Fabio Cordella, an Italian winemaker, sporting director and businessman known for producing, delicious high-quality Italian wines. He is the founder and owner of The Fabio Cordella Cantine winery, located in the heart of the Salento region, as well as Don Fabio Cigars with tobacco from Honduras.

We caught up with Fabio from his vineyard, to get his take on wine, cigars and his journey.


Sam & Jacob: Hi Fabio, it’s great to meet you and thanks for taking the time today.

Fabio Cordella: Good to meet you both too.

S&J: Can you tell us a bit about who you are and how Fabio Cordella Cantine wines came to be?

FC: I'm a football man. I'm a sports director. And my family have worked in the vineyard business, from more or less the seventh century, here in Italy. Beginning in 1300 the Cordella family started making wine in Spain, because of our origin is from Spain. Then we moved to Italy. That’s where we are now, just outside my cellar.

S&J: So, can you tell us about the wine you produce here?

FC: We grow every indigenous variety, from Salento we have Primitivo, Negromaro, Susumaniello, Malvasia Nera and Verdeca. The Sangiovese we are getting here is amazing, also indigenous to our vineyards is Cabernet. Merlot is not indigenous from here, but we’ve been growing it in our vineyards for the last 100 years.

S&J: One of your most famous lines is The Wine of Champions, Wine dedicated to footballers around the world. How did that get started?

FC: Having been a sports director, I’ve always been a football man. To build my dream team of players would have cost me billions, so one day I decided to combine wine and football and find a player to get involve in this project, to build my perfect team of players. Every player I approach, isn’t just an ambassador, but a partner. Working with players like John Terry, Ronaldinho and Julio Cesar, we will always produce great wines together nothing more or less. From combining two passions, such as the love for football and love for wine, the Wine of Champions was born.

Fabio and Ronaldinho

S&J: Now, how do you and the player create this bottle of wine together? Is it blended based on their personality or their own wine preferences?

FC: What we do is simple, the player is coming here, and we start to try different wines. They say “Fabio, I like these, or I like that. Maybe I like that better.”  So, we ensure we do really get the blend right for what they like.

But also yes, I enjoy getting the personality of the player into the bottle, you're capturing the essence of what that person is like. Capturing them in a bottle.

S&J: So, would you say you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to wine making or are you starting to push the boat out, and experiment with different blends or methods?

FC: Yes, we are very traditional, but we also love to experiment with different blends. The Wine of Champions shows this, blending grapes from all over to create beautiful tasting wine.

S&J: Now obviously in the wine industry, organic wines are really popular at the moment. How are you approaching that trend?

FC: We have always been organic, but we don't write that in the labels, because we do the wine with the small batch, so we don't have too much product. If you want to know if my wine is organic or not, please drink five or six bottle with friends in one night, you’ll see after you wake up, you’ll still feel very good. Now you have the chemical sulphites, but we use only natural occurring sulphite that comes from the fermentation of the grapes. No artificial or added sulphites, that when you wake up the day after, you are not feeling good. So yes, we have always had organic wines.

The Fabio Cordella Canine Vineyard - Salento, Italy

S&J: Have you any more types of wine or drink on the horizon? – I hear you do a Tequila.

FC: Yes, the tequila! It’s not for sale yet, but something I am trying. We also make a Grand Cru beer that I sell from our Brasserie in Belgium. We produce it like champagne, using champagne yeast – so it’s fantastic. So next and the last type of wine we are to add will be the Champagne, which is coming soon also.

S&J: In addition to wine, you also own Don Fabio cigars. How did this come about? We’re you sitting down with a glass of wine, and thought “Right, I should make a cigar”?

FC: So, this was another world to me. When I was younger, I always smoking cigarettes in my house, but this wasn’t good. I then looked at smoking cigars and kept a few in my office for the taste such as Cohiba. So, I approached Gran Habano cigars in Honduras, and said nobody is ever thinking about the wine with the cigar, then this was my idea to make a blend with the tobacco. A cigar made perfectly for drinking with wine.

I took a flight and found 1000 hectares of tobacco in Honduras, I visited Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Colombia. When I spoke with the Gran Habanos I say “I have this crazy and fabulous idea. Wine infused cigars.”

I then sent them many barrels of wine, where the leaves are soaked after fermenting and left to dry before being rolled into Don Fabio cigars. From this you can taste the red wine in every draw.

Don Fabio cigar enjoyed in the cellar

S&J: What a combination! It’s the common appreciation, isn't it. Looking for those beautiful tastes whether it's in a cigar or whether it's in a glass of a glass of Primitivo or Trebbiano, then seeing how you can complement each one.

FC: Yes, it's important. It has to work well with each other. There are many similarities between the wine and cigars. Like cigars, the terroir and fermentation are very very important to produce the best quality grapes and tobacco.


S&J: What sort of flavours do you enjoy in cigars?

FC: The trying of different tobacco and cigars to me is very special. I like dark leather flavours similar to wine, which is why I enjoyed Cohibas, but now for the price they are too much. Cubans are good, but with Don Fabio cigars it helps compliment when I am drinking wine. When I take a glass of wine, I feel many things – many flavours. Then when you are smoking a cigar it’s the same, because to me these two worlds are very close. A rich red will taste good for me with a darker, fuller cigar to smoke.

Wine infused cigars, alongside cigar infused wine


S&J: For our readers back in London, where can we find your wine?

FC: The Fabio Cordella wine is for sale at Hyde Farm in Wandsworth.

S&J: Thanks for speaking to us today, Fabio, I definitely think we need to come to try your wine and cigars to understand the hype!

FC: You are welcome my friends, I look forward to welcoming you to Verona in April as my guests, we will play footgolf, try lots of wine and you will see.

S&J: Haha, I'm not sure playing footgolf against professional footballers is particularly fair, but we cant wait!

We'll be catching up again with Fabio in Verona, during Vinitaly - an international wine exhibition.

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