Cannabis has finally seeped into the wine industry. On April 14th, The Daily Beast ran a story by Michael Steinberger, Marijuana-Laced Wine Grows More Fashionable in California Wine Country, which reported that Napa Vally winemakers were adding cannabis to their cabernet, infusing it with a cacophony of cannabinoids. About a pound of pot per barrel, to be specific. One unnamed winemaker said the sticky stuff ages for nine months in the juice and amounts to about 1.5 grams of cannabis per bottle.
The question is, why?
Why would you take a perfectly good wine and soak it with a sticky, gooey, highly potent, chemically-complex weed? Once it finishes at 15% alcohol and perhaps 5% THC, how fast would anyone want to see their room spin in order to drink the stuff?
Steinberger said that drugs have been on the periphery of the California wine scene since the late 1960s, but globally, cannabis in wine goes back a lot further than the last century.
Vancouver author Chris Bennett recently published a book, Cannabis and the Soma Solution that describes how cannabis was mixed with wine in ancient times:
“It is important to note that ancient Amphorae, clay wine vessels from an Egyptian site, from the time period in question, revealed evidence of cannabis. Manfred Rosch refers to vessels collected from a site in Saruma/Al-Kom Al-Ahmar in Middle Egypt on the Nile: ‘Here some wine amphorae were excavated, from the bottom of which we obtained samples of organic material for pollen analytical investigations…. The useful plants, Cerealia and Humulus/Cannabis were present.’ (Rosch, 2004)”
Sure, but those Egyptian winemakers didn’t have to face a picky wine media.
Back in the hemp days of the late 1990s, I had the opportunity to taste some wines infused with hemp, the no-THC version of cannabis. There were red wines and white wines. Some were better than others, but each wine tasted like there was just something wrong with it. Something inharmonious. Even without the cannabinoid potency, the hemp wines were funky, disjointed and off-putting. They amounted to pure novelty.
I haven’t tried these Napa wines, but I hope to this summer. I’m certain they taste sweeter than the old hemp wines and probably more skunky.
In a business that revolves around taste, cannabis is the enemy of wine. Everything you taste in cannabis are the flavors winemakers try to avoid. Try Funky. Who likes that in wine? Or skunky, foxey, manurey. Yuck. Or green, weedy, stemmy. I wonder what wine critic Robert Parker would write about cannabis wines.
The problem with cannabis wine is the mixing of grape with grain. Hops (or humulus) and cannabis are a perfect combination as they both stem from the small family of flowering plants called Cannabaceae. That’s why hemp ale tastes so good.
Grapes are from a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants called Vitaceae. Cannabaceae and Vitaceae are practically antithises of each other. Grapes are juicy, cannabis is sticky. They are like oil to water.
Then there are the physical effects. Remember the reason you don’t smoke cannabis after drinking alcohol? The combination of wine followed by weed is the stuff of nightmares, usually involving a toilet.
In a cannabis wine, you’ve got THC, CBD, CBN as well as the alcohol, reservatrol, and tannins, and you’re coming on to all these chemicals all at once. Probably best to lie down, put your feet up and rethink that second glass.
Given that American cannabis products are being forced further underground by the actions of a schizophrenic federal administration, the only logical market for cannabis wine is with the medicinal crowd. If it doesn’t contraindicate the patient’s other meds, cannabis wine has the unique ability to ease pain while clearing arteries; to excercise the mind while calming the heart; to fight cancer while aiding digestion. Kind of like an elixer of olden times, cannabis wine might just cure what ails ya.
I can see it now, Purple Haze Petite Sirah, packaged in cough syrup-sized bottles with its own little cup, like Nyquil.
While not entirely convinced that cannabis wines are worth the effort, my mind is still open. If I can find a cannabis wine in Napa that doesn’t make me retch I will be right back here to rave about it. Meanwhile, if you have thoughts, or better yet, a review of a cannabis wine, please leave a comment. I’d love to get some straight dope.