An­drew Jef­ford

‘Drinks com­pa­nies can­not af­ford to ig­nore the cannabis trend’

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

Cannabis is Com­ing, and wine pro­duc­ers know it. if you are Cana­dian, span­ish, Dutch, geor­gian or Uruguayan, you can con­sume recre­ational cannabis; so can peo­ple in nine Us states and in Wash­ing­ton DC. Cannabis may re­main il­le­gal else­where, but per­sonal recre­ational use is of­ten de­crim­i­nalised. We’ll see rapid leg­isla­tive changes re­gard­ing cannabis over the next 50 years. Con­stel­la­tion brands, the owner of Robert mon­davi, no­bilo, Kim Craw­ford and other wine brands, has just upped its in­vest­ment in Cana­dian cannabis pro­ducer Canopy growth, giv­ing it­self the op­tion on a con­trol­ling stake in three years.

most recre­ational cannabis users still smoke the stuff, but it can also be vaped and in­gested. Cannabis drinks of var­i­ous sorts may be­come the lead­ing medium for recre­ational con­sump­tion; once le­galised, the smok­ing of cannabis will lose its al­lure. no sane con­sumer wants tarry lungs.

Cannabis and i have yet to be­come ac­quainted, since i never wanted to in­hale smoke, nor in­gest a drug pro­duced in an un­con­trolled and un­su­per­vised man­ner, and de­liv­ered in a dose of un­spec­i­fied and vari­able strength. once all that changes, once i can safely con­sume a mod­est ‘glass of cannabis’ as an al­ter­na­tive to a glass of wine, then i will hap­pily give it a try. as will mil­lions of oth­ers – which is why drinks com­pa­nies can­not af­ford to ig­nore this trend.

Wine drinkers might scoff at the idea that cannabis could ever re­place their beloved glasses of Puligny or Pauil­lac – and as a sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence, it won’t. nor is it ex­actly anal­o­gous to tea; in­stead it oc­cu­pies an in­trigu­ing half-way house be­tween both. Wine is made from fruit; tea from leaf. Cannabis, by con­trast, is made from the un­fer­tilised fe­male flower ‘buds’ of this com­pli­cated plant. These are gen­er­ally har­vested as the pis­tils turn red, the tri­chomes (hair­like out­growths) turn milky-white, and the resin on the buds and tri­chomes glit­ters sticky and trans­par­ent.

Cannabis pos­sesses one clear ad­van­tage over wine, in that its med­i­cal use in treat­ing epilepsy and pro­vid­ing re­lief from chronic pain (such as that caused by arthri­tis) is proven, whereas the only proven med­i­cal ben­e­fit of al­co­hol is as an an­ti­sep­tic and dis­in­fec­tant. The pos­i­tive ef­fects of mod­er­ate cannabis use (low­er­ing of stress lev­els, in­creased ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the arts and of food and drink, in­creased sen­su­al­ity and jovi­al­ity) would be recog­nised by any wine drinker. Ex­actly like al­co­hol, ex­ces­sive cannabis use brings a panoply of neg­a­tive health consequences, and is ad­dic­tive. it’s hard, though, to see any rea­son save un­fa­mil­iar­ity for keep­ing cannabis il­le­gal in any leg­is­la­ture where al­co­hol con­sump­tion is le­gal.

The real test of cannabis as a ri­val to wine, of course, will be the beauty and com­plex­ity of the drinks that can be made from it. Cannabis cer­tainly has its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter and sen­sual pro­file, and the lyri­cism and metaphor­i­cal en­ergy al­ready brought to bear on dif­fer­ent smoked strains sug­gest it might of­fer a com­plex­ity anal­o­gous to wine. ‘a mix of Cali or­ange and skunk, it’s pos­i­tively flush with limonene, the ter­pene that gives or­anges their de­light­ful cit­rus smell. more like the flesh of a clemen­tine than the rind, there’s still faint white pep­per and skunk­i­ness in the strain...’ That’s a cannabis tast­ing note (for Colorado-grown Tangie), which is taken from the web­site www.thecannabist.co; the re­sem­blance to wine-tast­ing notes is ob­vi­ous.

any ‘pure cannabis’ drink, though, would be a flavoured in­fu­sion of a resinous flower head, which – most im­por­tantly – is made with­out fer­men­ta­tion (there’s lit­tle su­gar there). no un­fer­mented bev­er­age could ever ri­val a fer­mented one for com­plex­ity of aroma and flavour. beer (for lovers of grain and hop resins) and wine (for lovers of fruit) will there­fore keep their drink­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity.

Crossover drinks will also flour­ish, though, bring­ing fer­mented al­co­hol and cannabis to­gether, and it’s pos­si­ble that these might of­fer a charm and sub­tlety of their own.

(For more on this topic, see Karen MacNeil’s ‘ Let­ter from napa Val­ley’, p16.)

An­drew Jef­ford is a De­can­ter con­tribut­ing editor and the Louis Roed­erer In­ter­na­tional Colum­nist of 2016 for this and his ‘Jef­ford on Mon­day’ col­umn at De­can­ter.com/jef­ford

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