Winemaker uses condoms and tropical fruit to make wine


The sweet smell of fermenting fruit fills the streets around the modest Havana home where Orestes Estevez and his family fill glass jugs with grapes, ginger and hibiscus, then slip a condom over each glass neck to start the unusual process of winemaking in a land famed for rum.

From origins as an illicit backyard still, Cuba’s “El Canal” winery has become a flourishing business that annually produces thousands of gallons of wine flavored with guava, watercress and beets.

Estevez, 65, has made wine for decades. After a career in the military and security services he legalized his business and opened a tiny winery in 2000 as communist Cuba took the first steps toward allowing private enterprise.

Today, Estevez, his wife, son and an assistant tend to 300 jugs containing five gallons (20 liters) of wine apiece. The main ingredient is Cuban grapes, but added flavors include tropical fruits and vegetables of virtually every variety.

The winery has become a neighborhood attraction, with residents of the El Cerro neighborhood sitting on the curb at all hours sipping Estevez’s wine from green glasses.

The most remarkable sight, however, are hundreds of bottles capped with condoms that slowly inflate as the fruity mix ferments and produces gases. When the fermentation is over and there are no more gases, the condom stops inflating and falls, and the wine is ready for bottling.


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