Terpenes may be the hottest topic in the world of cannabis right now, but they’re hardly limited to cannabis. These fragrant hydrocarbons—that’s a fancier way of saying “essential oils”—give delightful flavors and aromas to a huge variety of natural products, from herbs to flowers to flowers, trees and beyond. And believe it or not, they’re powering the brave new frontier of wine and cannabis pairings.
At first glance, wine and cannabis don’t appear to have a lot in common besides the fact that they both impart lovely sensations. But beyond the beguiling effects of THC and alcohol, there’s a great deal going on behind the scenes. This sensory complexity is what gives fine wine—and top-shelf cannabis—their peculiar power. Let’s dive into the workings of pairing wine with cannabis!
Wine and Cannabis Pairings: The Science
If you love unwinding after work with a glass of wine or a pull from a vape pen, you’re in great company. Cannabis has been used and appreciated by us humans for at least 4700 years; wine for even longer. And it turns out they share many of the attributes that draw us to them.
Beyond the pleasurable intoxication provided by the (moderate) consumption of alcohol, well-made wine is literally awash in fragrant, flavorful terpenes. The distinctive smell of Christmas trees that animates Harlequin and Grape Ape strains—and pinot gris and vermentino wines—all come from alpha- and beta-pinene, a pair of closely linked terpenes. And the clovey, peppery aromas found in strains like OG Kush and Super Silver Haze (and a spicy, well-rounded zinfandel) come courtesy of beta-caryophyllene, a terpene found elsewhere in rosemary and hops.
So we know that many terpenes are common to both wine and cannabis. But how do we pair them?
Wine and Cannabis Pairings: The Practice
There are many theories underpinning the art of wine pairing. Some believe that matching flavors and aromas makes for the most complimentary matches. A wine with big, ripe and fruity flavors—like a Sangiovese or barbera, for example—might go well with a little hit of Blueberry.
Others take the opposite approach, reasoning that unlike flavors can mesh more harmoniously than ones that are superficially similar. Perhaps a dry, flinty and lean wine like pinot grigio or Burgundy might be offset with a lush and flavorful bud such as Cherry Kush.
Then there’s the “What tastes good to you?” approach. Rules be damned! If the biting aroma of Lemon Skunk tastes great alongside a sip of brawny, dark and leathery cabernet, who’s to say you’re wrong?
In the end, your palate is going to be your best guide. Because cannabis tends to amplify our sensory experiences, there’s an excellent chance you’ll know more or less immediately if you find a particular wine and cannabis pairing pleasurable, iffy, or downright weird. Even if you’re not an expert on either wine or cannabis, you’ll build up your essential “sensory library” fairly quickly, and begin to learn which pairings best suit your individual taste.
Wine and Cannabis Pairings: A Note of Caution
There’s one more thing we do feel the need to point out: Wine and cannabis are both intoxicants, and they typically serve to potentiate each other or magnify each others’ effects. Have fun with your pairing experiments, but exercise caution and moderation. And leave the driving to someone else.