by Dan Ketchum
From cannabis tastings and canna-culinary events to the low-key rise of the professional herb sommelier, two enthusiast circles are colliding to let the world know that pairing wine and weed is just as valid as serving oysters with Chablis. And just like knowing the basics of pairing food and wine, once you familiarize yourself with the most foundational terpene flavor pairings, you’ll soon be comfortable enough to get creative and put your own personal spin on the classics.
Wine and Weed: Before You Smoke and Sip
Speaking to Wine Enthusiast, professional herb somm and WE 40 Under 40 honoree Jamie Evans says, “Cannabis is just as complex as wine. There are a lot of similarities in the aromas and the flavors of cannabis and wine.” So, here, just as in pairing whiskey with weed, we’ll be treating the marijuana similar to how we might treat food in a food-and-wine pairing, at least in terms of how flavors accent or play off one another.
At the core, it’s all about homing in on the aromatic terpene profiles of different strains of cannabis to determine which flavors of wine they’ll best pair with. Beyond that, the type of high — and how that plays with or against the grapes — must be considered. As always, swirling the wine in a large-bowled glass and breathing in through your nose then out through your mouth will help you assess the aroma and flavor of the wine. Similarly, let the first puff of smoke linger in your mouth, rolling it with your tongue and focusing on its flavor before exhaling. A clean draw and a clean pen are key to enjoying the aromatics.
White and Light
According to Evans, there are two basic tenets of pairing wine and weed. The first is that pairing light strains with white wine is typically a safe bet. When dealing with light and bright strains, you’ll often hear descriptors like citrusy, tropical or floral. These strains commonly have aromatic notes of lavender, violet, lemon, orange or honey, and include popular varieties like Electric Lemonade, Super Silver Haze, Lemon Skunk and Sweet Tangie. In terms of the high, the clearer, more euphoric feelings of sativa-dominant strains round off the white wine experience. Our uplifting Over the Rainbow pen fits the bill here, with a triple-strain blend of citrusy sativas.
Perfect pairings: riesling, moscato, white zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay
Red and Heavy
Just as brighter strains tend to play best with white wines, heavier strains often complement red wines — that’s the second tenet. And as you might expect, those heavier, deep-down aromatics also mesh with the calmer, more relaxed highs of indica strains such as those you’ll find in Houdini. When pairing weed with reds, think earthy, looking for terpene buzzwords like pine, sandalwood, herbal, juniper, mushroom or berry. You’ll find those notes in strains like Herijuana, Max OG, Blueberry Bomb, Lashkar Gah and Northern Lights. SmithsonianMag recommends Purple Kush with red wine, too.
Perfect pairings: cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, pinot noir, grenache
Beyond the Basics
Think of these two pairing tenets as the first two steps on your journey — but as both are famously complex and layered flavor experiences, wine and weed pairings run deep. Herb somm Evans expands upon the two basic categories with a chart of six more subtle and specific terpene profiles that pairs, for example, vermentino with piney alpha-pinene terps, gewürztraminer with perfumey strains containing nerolidol, and nebbiolo with the geranium-like linalool terpene.
Because both wine and weed can affect how your body and mind feel, curating the experience from front to back is essential. Since it can take time to feel the effects of THC, starting with the smoke makes the most sense, followed by enjoying the wine. To wind down the tasting session, non-psychoactive CBD can help lift and clarify the wine buzz (though it’s of course no substitute for safe drinking practices).
Dan Ketchum is an LA-based freelance lifestyle, fashion, health and food writer with more than a decade of experience. He’s been fortunate enough to collaborate and publish with companies such as FOCL, Vitagenne, Livestrong, Reign Together, Out East Rosé, SFGate, the Seattle Times and more.
Wine Enthusiast – Why Weed and Wine Have More in Common Than You Think
Smithsonian Magazine – Which Wine Should You Pair With Your Weed?
The Herb Somm – Terpene and Aroma Pairing Guide