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
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.
Pairing Wine and Cannabis by Flavor
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.
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.
Pairing Wine and Cannabis by Effects
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).
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
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.