In Spite of the Economic Crisis, Cuba Stages an Expensive International Wine Festival
International businessmen from the wine world gathered this week at the Hotel Nacional in Havana for the government-sponsored XXII Wine Fair. The presentation of the most recent products and most expensive wines from the Spanish brands Torres and Juvé & Camps – the stars of the event – will allow Cuba to consolidate its related businesses with other European liquor giants attending the event.
The delegation from Juvé & Camps presented three premium sparkling wines: Reserva Brut, Essential Púrpura; Gran Reserva Brut Nature, Reserva de la Familia; and Gran Reserva Brut, Gran Juvé & Camps. These wines will soon be available for purchase on the island though it is likely that their prices, which were not revealed, will put them out of reach of most Cuban consumers.
According to the food and wine magazine Excelencias Gourmet, other Spanish wineries also participating were Vallformosa, Grupo Freixenet, Roqueta Origen, Joan Sardá and Destilerías MG. On the Cuban side, Havana Club International S.A. was in attendance along with several Cuban winemakers and the marketing firm Inversiones Pucara S.A.
Officials announced that at least six ballrooms and three restaurants at the Havana hotel will be used to hold tasting, pairings and presentations. Conferences and workshops, however, will be held in the famous Salon 1930, also known as the Compay Segundo Room. The event will also coincide with the opening of the Capablanca Bar, named in honor of the Cuban chess player, on the hotel’s rooftop.
In early August, the newspaper OnCuba announced that a group of Italian and Mexican wineries had shown interest in participating in the festival and were awaiting final approval from the Cuban Chamber of Commerce. However, recent articles about the event have not made reference to any other companies apart from the aforementioned Spanish wineries and France’s Pernod Ricard, which manages – along with a Cuban partner – the Havana Club brand.
While not as extravagant as the Habano Cigar Festival, this costly fair comes at a moment when the country is experiencing a structural crisis in which one of the sectors most affected is food. Cuban officials, however, have spared no expense to impress their guests. Cheeses, wines, rums of the highest caliber, and other delicacies are piled high on the Hotel Nacional’s tables.
During the Wednesday night broadcast of the TV interview program Mesa Redonda (Roundtable), the minister of Domestic Commerce, Betsy Diaz Velazquez, announced that at least eight essential, rationed products, all of them food items, would not be available in the coming months. Not even vulnerable families, the elderly, pregnant women, or women who are breastfeeding are safe from hunger.