Earlier this week, about 100 California winemakers, producers and distributors participated in the first-ever California Wine Symposium in Havana in hopes of reviving the presence of California wines on Cuban dining tables.
The two-day event that began on Feb. 1 was organized by the California Wine Institute, associations of Sonoma and Napa Valley wine producers and the Sonoma-based U.S. CAVA Exports (USCE), a company dedicated to assisting U.S. based companies sell wine to Cuba.
“The time is right and the interest is unprecedented, especially among the growing community of privately-owned family-run restaurants known as paladares, and the hoteliers who serve the rapidly expanding Cuban tourist market,” said USCE founder Darius Anderson in a press release.
Hundreds of Cuban sommeliers, as well as private restaurant representatives and buyers for state-run restaurants attended the Symposium, which included a Grand Tasting at the Hotel Palco Convention Center in Havana on Feb. 2.
California winemakers and distributors also conducted market survey research about the current wine import and export market in Cuba.
Cuba can legally buy wine and other agricultural products from the U.S. but Cuban officials stopped importing California wines in 2005 due to a trade embargo provision that prohibits American producers from selling goods to Cuba on credit.
Last week, President Obama announced the permission of sales to Cuba for most goods on credit but completely lifting the ban for agricultural products would require further action by Congress.
Currently, Cuba imports about 360,000 cases of wine a year from other countries on credit.