by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's 19th International Wine Festival aims to boost tourism by featuring the world's top brands on the Caribbean island.
Taking place through Friday, the three-day event brings together representatives of leading wineries, distribution companies and exporters from 12 countries and offers a program of wine and cigar pairings, taste tests, brand presentations as well as new product launches.
Rum continues to be the spirit most associated with Cuba, but wine is making inroads, gaining in popularity among islanders and has always been a favorite with international travelers.
"I did find great curiosity from visitors to the International Wine Fair here to know more about wines," Federico Leonard, global ambassador of Spanish winery Campo Viejo, told Xinhua.
He added that there is no doubt the consumption of spirits is stronger in many Latin American countries, while wine is witnessing growing interest in the region.
At this year's festival, iconic Cuban rum company Havana Club announced it partnered with French firm Pernod Ricard to introduce Spain's Campo Viejo wines to the local market, particularly hotels and restaurants.
According to Leonard, as one of the top-selling Spanish brands in Latin America, Campo Viejo should make it easier to break into the Caribbean market due to its strategic partnership with Havana Club.
Leonard noted that the winery is "presenting the portfolio we have in most of our export markets" to Cuba, including a sparkling wine, a light Tempranillo, a Reserva aged three years and a Gran Reserva aged five.
"Campo Viejo is a brand that represents Rioja very well...the most famous wine region in Spain," Leonard added.
Jesus Fernandez, a Cuban sommelier who works with Havana Club, approved of the selection, saying that the wines are well suited to the island's cuisine and climate.
"The cava, or sparkling wine of high acidity, is very fresh on the palate and can accompany any type of food," said Fernandez, adding that it is very easy to drink and even refreshing considering Cuba's hot weather.
The wines will be available at five-star resorts and shops by December.
A different Spanish winery, Bodegas Torres, takes credit for launching the festival in Cuba.
"We are pioneers, founders of the wine fair," said Carlos Acosta, a representative of Bodegas Torres.
He added that among Cuba's tourism-industry events, the wine festival is of great importance because it's where they deal and talk with their end consumers and present new products.
More than 4.7 million foreign visitors travel to Cuba each year.