A 65 year-old Cuban has discovered an unusual way to help ferment home-made tropical fruit wines.
At his house in the southern Havana neighborhood of El Canal, Orestes Estevez and his family fill glass jugs with wine made from grapes, raisins, beets, papaya, bananas, ginger and even watercress before slipping a condom over each container.
This unusual procedure to make “Cuban-style” wine has been followed at Estevez’ s winery for over 15 years and has become an attraction in Havana.
“I started making wine like everyone else. I used to fill jars with wine and cover them with cloth but that did not work so well. Later on, I learned about the condom method at the wine organization of Havana. It has really proven to be the best option,” Estevez told Xinhua.
After 30 years serving in the military and security services, he has been in the wine business since 2000 after the Cuban government allowed private workers to start their own businesses.
Since then, his winery has become popular, not only for its unique finishing method, but also for the variety, quality and prices of his wines.
“Once the wine is prepared, the condom is put over the jar to start the process of fermentation which lasts from 30 to 45 days. In this period, the condom starts to rise until it is totally erect as when used by a man,” he added.
When the condom falls off, it indicates the fermentation process has ended and the wine is ready to be bottled.
Everyday, Orestes, along with his wife and son, fills 20 liter-wine bottles thanks to a recipe which he keeps secret.
“I live very happily with my family in this business. However, I have no intentions at my age to try and expand. With this winery, I have a good life and, as our poet Nicolas Guillen said, I have what I need to have,” he added.
El Canal Winery sells around 50 bottles a day at prices which range from 0.5-1 U.S. dollar, accessible for Cuba, where the average salary for public workers is around 25 U.S. dollars a month.
Many neighbors pass by to sip a glass of wine or even buy full bottles at the winery, which has become a popular spot in the neighborhood.
“I like coming here to buy this very high-quality wine, it is much better than the rum or alcohol other people sell on the street,” Arturo Xiques, a Havana resident and wine aficionado, told Xinhua.
For many Cubans, Estevez’ s products are a good way to sample a nice wine without spending so much money. Imported wines are sold for over 10 U.S. dollars at local stores.
Estevez believes the hard times the island has faced led many Cubans to adapt or even invent new methods of doing things. If so, using condoms to ferment wines must be among the more inventive.