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The Leafly Wine & Cannabis Pairing Guide

May 8, 2014
Leafly Guide to Pairing Wine and Cannabis

The cannabis market is often compared to that of wine thanks to the impressive depth, complexity, and varietal diversity of both. If you have yet to pair the two, welcome to the concerto of all physiological symphonies. Tantalizing the palate with a sip of chardonnay, following with an expansive citrus pull of Lemon Pie, and relishing the beautiful chorus of aromas, flavors, and effects strung together by these two elevated delectations is an experience unlike any other. But how to go about it if you’re new to wine or cannabis pairing?

Basic Tenets of Wine Pairing

Leafly Guide to Pairing Wine and Cannabis


A good pairing should result in an experience greater than the sum of its parts. “Steak and cabernet sauvignon is a perfect example,” says Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor at Wine Enthusiast. “On its own, cabernet is rich and tannic. Pair it with steak and a wonderful dance happens: the fat of the meat tames tannins and, simultaneously, the tannins cut through the fat and get you ready for the next bite.”

For those who are intimidated by the idea of pairings, you’re not alone. Many who are new to the process state that they feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of potential pairings out there, which is fair—between hundreds of wine varietals and thousands of cannabis strains, coupled with variations (think red blends and strain phenotypes) plus new strains hitting the market by the day, the possibilities are truly endless. Let us allay apprehension by emphasizing that in pairings, there are no wrong answers.

In pairings, there are no wrong answers. If you like it, it’s a good pairing.

“There are no hard and fast rules,” explains Fink. “That same steak [that works with a cabernet sauvignon] can be great with a pinot noir. And one of the best wine pairings I ever had with steak was Champagne”—an unconventional choice. The same guidance goes for pairing wine with anything else, including charcuterie, chocolate, and cannabis. Tl;dr: If you like it, it’s a good pairing.


The Leafly Guide to Pairing Cannabis and Chocolate

Pairing Wine and Cannabis by Flavor

Leafly Guide to Pairing Wine and Cannabis


Cannabis is characterized to a great extent by terpenes, a diverse class of fragrant oils that occur naturally in the plant and give strains their unique aromas and flavors. The fact that the Lavender strain truly smells like its namesake can be attributed to the presence of linalool, also commonly found in lavender flowers. Similarly, Mango Kush gets its flavor from myrcene, also present in its namesake fruit. In an effective pairing, the flavors in cannabis will either accentuate existing flavors in the wine and vice versa, or else complement them in a unique way.

One of the easiest place for beginners to start is with descriptively named strains, such as the tangerine-forward Tangie. Have a citrusy pinot gris on hand? Match it with Tangie to play up those flavor notes. You can also consider other flavors that would go well with tangerine, such as those found in a bright and floral chenin blanc. If you’ve played around with food and wine pairings or mixed drinks before, you’ve already got a head start: For instance, if you’d be inclined to add tangerines to a sangria with said wine, a tangerine-flavored strain is a logical bet.


The Leafly Beer & Cannabis Flavor Pairing Guide

Once you’ve experimented with a few easy pairings, start using your imagination to think up new combinations. “It would be interesting to explore cannabis strains with grassy, herbaceous flavors and aromas and see if they complement and/or accentuate a white and a red wine with those characteristics, [such as] sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc,” suggests Fink. We suggest working with a vaporizer suited for cannabis flower—you’ll have an easier time tasting the subtle nuances of flavor present in the vapor than you would in smoke.

Looking for a little more guidance? Use our visual guide and flavor chart to determine which cannabis strain to pair with your favorite bottle of wine.

Guide to Pairing Marijuana and Wine | Leafly

(Nick Ouellette/Leafly)

Pairing Wine and Cannabis by Effects

Leafly Guide to Pairing Wine and Cannabis


One of the elements that makes wine and cannabis pairings even more compelling than wine and food pairings is the fact that not only does the wine influence the consumer’s state of consciousness, so does the cannabis. Red wine, for instance, lends itself to a warm and cozy—even romantic—buzz. Certain strains can have similar effects (for instance, check out these 11 arousing strains).


The Leafly Guide to Pairing Tea and Cannabis

That said, it’s important to be mindful of each individual substance’s effects as you pair. Smoking a sleepy indica and polishing off two glasses of a heavy red may leave you dozing in an armchair rather than hanging out with your guests. If you know red wine tends to make your eyelids feel heavy, opt for an energy-packed sativa or hybrid to balance things out instead, and always consume in moderation when pairing any kind of cannabis and alcohol.

Wine and Cannabis Pairings to Try

The Leafly Wine and Cannabis Pairing Guide
Merlot and Blueberry:
The dense mountain berry notes and underlying earthiness of this legendary strain play beautifully with the deep, dark, stonefruit flavors and velvety mouthfeel of a good merlot.

Rosé and Strawberry Cough: The sweet strawberries-and-sugar elements of Strawberry Cough accent the berry notes and residual sugars of a summery rosé wine, while the subtle skunkiness woven through the flavor profile of the strain plays out in a memorable way against the backdrop of the wine.

Riesling and OG Kush: The lemon-laced evergreen forest flavors of OG Kush match impeccably with the subtle sweetness and minerality of an off-dry riesling; meanwhile, the body-relaxing, euphoric effects of the strain provide the perfect complement to the buzz of a glass or two.


How to Pair Food and Drinks With Cannabis Terpenes

  • Jake

    Next we need a cigars and cannabis pairing guide. Go with darker wrappers and more complex fillers for the earthier, sweeter strains. For lighter, citrusy strains, go with the lighter shades. Darker doesn’t mean stronger! Just more coffee, earth, and chocolate flavors. The stronger flavors come from country of origin and leaf primings. The leaves taken from the top of the plant (ligero) are significantly stronger and higher in nicotine than the middle (viso) and the bottom (seco). Nicaragua is also widely considered to produce the strongest and most complex cigar tobacco, with flavors ranging from wood to leather to earth. Dominican is generally the lightest, with creamy, nutty flavors. Honduran is known for its earthiness, and Ecuadorian is known for its sweet, floral characteristics.
    I am currently pairing an arturo fuente anejo (an exception to Dominican being the lightest, the anejo is a full bodied cigar with a connecticut broadleaf wrapper and filler and binder from the dominican), having flavors of sweet oak, coffee, cedar, and dark fruit, with a bowl of purple kush.

    • Brother Undercover

      You should make a chart with photos and submit it to Leafly. Or perhaps start a blog.

  • snerpripoosel

    So, the chart suggests one specific strain for one type of wine, e.g. a dry dessert wine would pair well with Blueberry.
    Clicking the picture does not open an enlarged image. The website doesn’t display anything extra after clicking the picture. Why would the author claim otherwise? Strange.
    BTW, anyone else see the grid optical illusion effect with the disappearing black dots at the intersections of the white background of the chart?

    • Mark

      What dots? ha ha ha

  • Mark

    This is all well and great to know. I’d like to know if there is a saying like people say “cheers” for a toast with wine but a saying for cannabis! Perhaps “Euphoria!” :=)

  • Mike

    I would bring up my vast experience in the late 70’s early 80’s of pairing moldy Mexican brickweed or Kansas homegrown with Boones Farm or TJ Swan, but I wouldn’t want to brag.

    • Bob Khan

      We did the same thing in North Texas back in the 90’s. Alcohol choices were usually, St Ides Special Brew, Mickey’s, Bud Ice or Lone Star if we were desperate.

  • Mike

    Sip of merlot, hit of blueberry, sip of merlot, hit of blueberry,…..sip of merlot, ………hit of blueberry,…………sip of merlot,……………….hit….. of……..blueb……………zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz