The pairing of wine and weed seems like a hip new fad that has grown out of the explosion in legalization around the US. Maybe you add a little cheese on the side, or even pair your herb with beer.
But did you know that the process of actually infusing weed into wine has been practiced for thousands of years?
Hua Tuo’s Anesthetic Liquor
We don’t know exactly who decided this would be a great combo initially – it’s hard enough chiseling your name into rocks without bothering to paleo-tweet about the new drink you whipped up in the back cave to knock the kids out – but early records from the Han Dynasty in China point to the ganja and grape combo being used to knock out patients before surgery.
A physician by the name of Hua Tuo (140-208) would incapacitate his subjects with a “cannabis boiling powder” called máfèisàn (麻沸散) that was dissolved in wine, if his usual techniques of acupuncture or medicine couldn’t resolve a patient’s problems, and surgery was required. They would “immediately become intoxicated as though dead and completely insensate,” which isn’t a bad state to be in if a Han Dynasty quack wants to rummage around in your innards.
Hua Tuo thought being a surgeon was beneath him and when a local warlord signed him up to cure his frequent headaches, Hua Tuo made excuses about a sick wife and headed for the hills. he was eventually caught and executed and all of his medical notes were lost.
Most of the development of cannabis-infused wine happened in the 80s, in California, where “pot wine” was something vintners would knock up and share with friends or at private gatherings. It was generally made with rosé wines, in unlabeled bottles, and quite pricey if you wanted to buy it – the war on drugs made it a risky business.
As the stigma around cannabis fades, and the changes in marijuana laws make it more accessible, wine drinkers in states like California are increasingly able to enjoy the combination of two of their most popular pleasures – good wine and great herb.
Melissa Etheridge – the rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, and activist – used to be a casual marijuana user before a breast cancer diagnosis in 2004. After the subsequent chemotherapy she became an outspoken medicinal cannabis advocate, and has even developed her own range of cannabis-infused wine tinctures in partnership with Greenway Compassionate Relief. She calls it “No Label” and the range includes Shiraz and a Grenache.
How It’s Made
Wine makers tend to infuse cannabis into Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Cabernets, Grenaches, Chardonnays and Viogniers. Cannabis strains have different flavours and effects, and it’s common to use hybrid strains because pure sativas and indicas in concert with alcohol can make drinkers either anxious or groggy.
If you’re thinking of a little ganja wine DIY then it’s not quite as easy as you might imagine. Dunking a bud into a glass of Pinot isn’t going to do the trick, because it’s the fermenting of the wine that draws the THC out of the cannabis and into the wine.
Wine makers tend to add around a pound of cannabis into a wine cask, and the fermentation process marries the THC and wine together.
Cannabis-infused wine tends to get you high more quickly than edibles, and the combination of weed and alcohol produces a unique high.
It’ll be a long time before this ganja-grape duo will be freely available, if ever. Putting aside the ongoing issues around cannabis legalization, the complex laws and regulations around alcohol make it highly unlikely that weed wine will be something you can pick up from the local liquor store.
It might be time to take a few underground Napa Valley Wine Tours…