Cannabis Winemaker Jamie Evans on the Future of Hybrid Beverages | Wine Enthusiast
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Cannabis Winemaker Jamie Evans on the Future of Hybrid Beverages

California-based Jamie Evans, also known as The Herb Somm, is well known in the cannabis space thanks to her informative and educational events, website and two books, The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Explore the World of Cannabidiol and Cannabis Drinks: Secrets to Crafting CBD and THC Beverages at Home.

Earlier this year, Evans, who holds a wine business degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has over a decade of wine industry experience, launched Herbacée, a cannabis-infused non-alcoholic wine. Available in both bottle and can, the brand’s first offering is the Sparkling Rosier, made primarily from Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cinsault; a Sparkling Blanchette is set for spring release. Evans sources the base wine from throughout California, taking out the alcohol to infuse a proprietary blend of THC and CBD. We caught up with her to learn more about this fascinating hybrid drinks world now upon us.

Crush Cans of Herbacée
Cans of Herbacée. / Photo by: Chris Greenwell

Virginie: Can you describe what’s happening in the cannabis beverage space? Did it start with seltzers and beer-like drinks first and is just now getting to wine?

Jamie: Infused drinks are one of the fastest growing cannabis categories and poised to become one of the largest categories in the edible space. There is a lot of money coming from traditional beverage companies and an enormous potential for growth; it’s exciting to see. In 2017 when I launched Herb Somm, cannabis drinks were not a thing. But in the past three to four years, there’s been so much innovation going into this space and now there are professional products that are shelf stable.

It’s becoming mainstream—there are a lot of celebrities coming out with cannabis beverages, as well as athletes. It started with seltzers and tonics, but now that we have the ability to create cannabis-infused aperitifs, dealcoholized beer, cider and wine, the possibility is immense.

Virginie: What is it about cannabis beverages that will appeal to regular consumers of wine?

Jamie: It’s such a familiar consumption process. Not everyone wants to roll up a joint or use a concentrate. We all know how to crack open a can or open a bottle. Beverages blend in with the norms of a normal lifestyle, are approachable and more acceptable in social situations than smoking. And they provide that social experience.

For wine consumers specifically, there are now beverages that are similar to wine that provide a wine like experience at a fraction of the calories and without alcohol. People are being more health conscious; you’re seeing this trend of low- to no-alcohol beverages in general. Cannabis beverages fit in with those and give people something else to explore.

Virginie: If THC or CBD is present, alcohol has to be removed from a commercial cannabis infused product, correct? What are the challenges of replacing the texture and body that alcohol contributes?

Jamie: If it’s going to be sold in a legal cannabis market like a dispensary, it has to be dealcoholized. So as a cannabis winemaker, it’s up to me to build the wine back into something that delivers that wine-like drinking experience. It’s about balance. One end is creating something wine-like with primary, secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors to make it complex, but also thinking about the balance of acidity and residual sugar on your palate.

For Herbacée, I wanted something that had bright acidity, that reminds me of wine. The final part is weight on the palate. Alcohol contributes to the structure and when you remove that, you’re left with something that could taste similar to water. You have to think about what you can add back in. There are different techniques and ingredients that people use that are all natural. Ultimately though, if you’re starting with a high-quality wine, chances are the dealcoholized wine is going to be pretty darn good as well.

Virginie: You worked hard to make sure Herbacée would not taste sweet. Why?

Jamie: I wanted to create a dry, refreshing beverage that resembles a crisp rosé like you would find in France. Acid-driven was important to me too; I want consumers to pair it with food. I’m a big wine drinker myself. That it was not laced with sugar was important. It took me 70 revisions to figure out the right balance.

Virginie: What do you see ahead for the cannabis beverage space?

Jamie: The future’s very bright; there’s a lot of momentum and excitement. We can produce these beautiful, shelf-stable products that taste great. There are only a handful of cannabis-infused wine producers that are infusing with THC, so there is an exciting opportunity there. As the low- and no-alcohol categories grow, it helps the cannabis drink messaging. These beverages deliver a buzz, and you might still want a buzz but don’t want the side effect of alcohol. One day, I would love to see cannabis-infused wine bars. It’s only a matter of time before we see on-premise, consumer-facing experiences.

This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!