Jamie Evans is the founder of The Herb Somm, the author of multiple books and the creator or Herbacée, a new THC infused wine! If you're curious about the legality, the taste, or formulation of the wine, you don't want to miss this interview! Learn all about Jamie, Herbacée and peek into the new culture of cannabis wines.
Jamie: Thanks so much for the opportunity to interview with you! The Herb Somm is a cannabis blog and lifestyle brand that focuses on the gourmet side of the industry. I’m probably best known for my cannabis dining events and wine and weed experiences, but I’m also the author of two published books, The Ultimate Guide to CBD, and most recently, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, which released in April of this year.
Alongside my work in the cannabis space, I’m a Certified Specialist of Wine and French Wine Scholar with over a decade of wine industry experience. This fall, I’m excited to introduce my new cannabis beverage brand, Herbacée, the nation’s first nonalcoholic cannabis-infused sparkling wine that honors French-inspired wine blends.
M: Tell me about this new type of wine you’re bringing to the market; how would you describe it?
J: Herbacée (meaning “Herbaceous” in French) explores the divine connection between cannabis and the grapevine. My goal with this product line is to demonstrate the correlation between these sacred plants as well as showcase the art of blending.
M: Why blending?
J: Many of the world’s most sought-after wines are based on blending, particularly in France. This philosophy highlights the synergies between grape varieties and demonstrates how they can work together to enhance the wine’s aromas, flavors, and characteristics. We can also blend wine with cannabis to create some special products. With this in mind, Herbacée will feature cannabis-infused French-inspired wine blends, beginning with Sparkling Rose, a rosé blend made from Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault, launching this fall.
Our products will first be available in single-serve cans and four-packs, but I am planning to release 750ml bottles towards the end of next year. Keep an eye out for Sparkling Blanc coming Spring 2022!
M: Is this wine similar tasting compared to other wines, or does it taste different due to the infusion and or infusion process?
J: While it’s difficult to provide the exact same experience we get from drinking a glass of traditional wine, cannabis-infused wines are unique on their own. First of all, infused wine must legally go through the dealcoholization process to remove alcohol before it’s combined with cannabis. This process presents challenges because it removes some of the natural aromas and flavors of the wine. To deliver a wine-like drinking experience, these aromas and flavors must be added back in, which can be a tricky process, especially if you’re trying to create primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas/flavors like traditional wine.
When it comes to the taste, the type of cannabis emulsion you're using to infuse the beverage is also incredibly important. Depending on what style of drink you’re looking to create, you can either go with a neutral cannabis profile (delivering minimal cannabis notes) or use a more terpene-forward emulsion (presenting more robust cannabis aromas/flavors). When it comes to choosing a cannabis emulsion, bitterness is also a factor that should be considered based on what clarity you’re trying to achieve. Typically, the more clear the emulsion is, the more bitter. The emulsions I am using for Herbacée are neutral and not bitter, allowing a curated melody of aromas and flavors to shine through.
M: Does it taste the same as traditional wine?
J: Not exactly, but close! Like traditional wine, you’ll be able to pick out different fruit and floral notes. You’ll also perceive bright acidity, delivering a wine-like experience. On the nose and palate, it almost reminds me of a natural wine - it has a similar appearance as well.
M: Who is your product made for, heavy hitters, newbies, in-between, the canna-curious, or someone else? What is the THC% per dose and per bottle? And is that based on the wine design or regulations?
J: Herbacée is a product that can be enjoyed by anyone curious to explore cannabis beverages. For beginners, this beverage is approachable, offering a balanced ratio of 5 milligrams THC to 5 milligrams CBD per serving, presenting a mild euphoric experience, similar to drinking a glass of traditional wine or beer. For the more experienced cannabis consumer, Herbacée is sessionable (i.e., you can drink more than one), offering a higher potency based on your preference. This ratio was determined by consumer feedback, not by regulations.
Herbacée is also a perfect alternative to alcohol. So if you’re someone who enjoys wine but looking to cut back, this product is for you.
M: I'm aware in CO and CA alcohol and cannabis combined is illegal for regulated products, does this mean your wine is alcohol-free? If so, how do you feel about that? Is wine wine without alcohol?
J: Due to current regulations, you cannot combine cannabis and alcohol into the same product if you plan to sell your beverage in the legal cannabis market. That said, any cannabis-infused wine you come across at a licensed dispensary contains alcohol-free wine.
If you’ve tasted a dealcoholized wine before, then you know some of the wine’s essence is lost. However, as technology and innovations continue to improve, so are these products! We’re also witnessing a more significant focus on the no to low alcohol categories. Major players in the wine industry are now offering these types of beverages, so I do think there’s a place for alcohol-free wines. There’s even a greater opportunity for cannabis-infused wines since they deliver a buzz but none of the negative side effects of alcohol.
M: When I was making alcohol-free THC-infused beer back in the day, the biggest issue was removing the alcohol from the beer, which can happen easily with heat since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water. Yet heating up fermented beer is not a wise idea and tastes awful! Another method is vacuuming out the alcohol since vacuum pressure causes boiling and alcohol condensation without heat which doesn’t disturb the other ingredients. I have to imagine your wine goes through a similar process to preserve the subtle nature of the grape juice while surgically removing the alcohol. Is this the case, different, or top secret?
J: Many techniques can be used to remove the alcohol in wine. Similar to your experience with beer, it can be a tricky process to preserve quality. Fortunately, I am working with BevZero, an industry leader in alcohol and flavor management, to dealcoholize my wine. To ensure quality, BevZero uses “Very Low-Temperature Distillation (VLTD)” technologies, including the Spinning Cone Column and GoLo Technology, to remove the alcohol.
Both the Spinning Cone Column (SCC) and GoLo enable the highly selective and virtually total capture of undamaged aroma/flavor compounds, and then alcohol as necessary, from any liquid. This is achieved by a combination of low temperatures, brief residence times, and very thin, turbulent films. The end result is quite impressive, especially if you’re using a high-quality wine, to begin with. In my opinion, this is the most important factor. A high-quality base wine will turn into a delicious dealcoholized wine.
M: What is the future of cannabis wine? Have you seen much competition?
J: The future of cannabis wine is bright! While this category is still nascent, we’ve made some incredible strides forward over the past few years. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, we can now produce shelf-stable products that maximize bioavailability and taste, which only continue to improve.
In terms of competition, there are only a few cannabis wine brands at this point, but I consider them to be more collaborators than competitors. We all work together and support each other. While Herbacée is the newest brand, we’re excited to dive in and help push the movement forward.
M: Is there anything else you want to mention about your product that we haven’t covered yet?
J: To learn more about Herbacée and our upcoming launch, please be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook @herbaceeofficial. To learn more about my work and The Herb Somm, please be sure to follow me @TheHerbSomm and join my newsletter at TheHerbSomm.com. Cheers, and I hope you enjoy my latest drink creation!
Jamie's most recent book, Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home, pairs excellently with Interpening: The Art and Science of the Cannabis Sommelier.