Lockdowns harbor many an idea that only comes to light because ideas sometimes require sufficient time for reflection. Or is it pure marketing that Raphael de Pablo has come up with – a combination of cannabis and Petit Verdot? In any case, the authorization for the production of cannabis wines from French production was successfully won before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
FRANCE (Bordeaux) – So, let’s get it straight: If cannabis is added during the production of wine, we cannot legally speak of wine, but this mixture is an aromatized wine-based beverage. This doesn’t change the fact that de Pablo, supposedly the first producer of cannabis wine in France, assures: “Nothing differs from the production of a classic wine, the production of which was even supervised under the eyes of the director of a great Bordeaux chateau.”
“The ‘Burdi W’ shows a note of blackcurrant and has a very relaxing effect when enjoyed” states a Bordelais magazine. Whether this rating may have come from the famous oenologist Michel Rolland is not confirmed. In any case, Rolland was present at the first public tasting together with his friend Alain Raynaud, among others owner of Château Quinault (Saint-Emilion) and mentor of the project. Rolland is said to have tasted the cannabis wine “with pleasure”, the magazine says.
The “Burdi W” project, as the cannabis wine is named, was financed by the French crowdfounding platform KissKissBankBank. “We couldn’t have done it without support, and now we’ve been able to launch our cannabis wine, which when consumed offers the consumer a guaranteed relaxation effect, provided it is consumed in moderation,” explains de Pablo. And so, recently, “Burdi W” became the first French cannabis wine on the market, a category that insiders say will develop rapidly in the future.
There are the most diverse mixtures of fruit juices and herbs that have fermented grape juice as their base. This has long since become a trend and the market for such flavored wine or juice drinks is huge. In “Burdi W,” the molecule cannabidiol (CBD) is ultimately added to the wine. CBDs have anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety effects and help relieve nausea. Other pharmacological effects, such as an antipsychotic effect, are still being researched. But these relaxing effects are precisely why CBD, as opposed to THC (a psychoactive substance that is also a cannabinoid), has been approved in France since late last year.
“There is 100 percent Petit Verdot in ‘Burdi W,'” explains de Pablo, who runs “The Medical Farm” in the Gironde department and has planted the first THC-free cannabis field nearby. However, de Pablo had to wait for a decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) against the cultivation and use of CBD in wine. In November 2020, the ECJ had declared illegal the ban on the use of CBD in French wine that had been in place until then, stressing that this molecule found in hemp (or Cannabis sativa) has “no” psychotropic or harmful effect on human health. This cleared the way for the use of CBD in wine-like beverages. De Pablo also uses additives of CBD in the also own production of oils and ointments.
Validation by oenologist and physician Alain Raynaud
Pablo’s company’s cannabis field of 1.4 hectares, located in the Gironde department, is one of four experimental fields to date where harvests of CBD for wine production are now officially beginning. Previously, there were only three fields of the same type in France, two of which are in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, the other in Creuse. “We have an official catalog in France with information on hemp seeds,” explains de Pablo. “There are 25 varieties listed in it, but only one allows us to do what we do today. During growth, we remove all the male plants and only the flowering of the female plants are used. By doing this, we reduce the amount of material to be harvested and therefore the amount of CBD in advance.” The harvest is then extracted in a certified organic laboratory in Germany. The result is a concentrate of CBD.
Production and design of “Burdi W” was accompanied and supervised by Alain Raynaud. “It’s a first experience, I’ve never tasted this kind of product before,” admits Alain Raynaud. “It is not only a wine based on grapes, but it looks like wine, it reaches like wine and it tastes like wine. I’ve known wine for 40 years and it’s very exciting to taste the ‘Burdi W’. It is a drink that I enjoy.”
No fear of side effects
Cannabis wine production is a serious business, but one that requires very careful dosing of CBD to maintain a balance. The process takes up to three months. “It’s very complicated because cannabis contains strong terpenes. You have to find the right combination to match the taste of the wine,” de Pablo explains. Terpenes are compounds found in plants that pass on their distinctive smell and taste when used. “We tame the terpenes to create a real flavor interest. We want very fruity notes with hints of black berries that support the flavor of the Petit Verdot,” explains de Pablo.
The “Burdi W” contains around 45.5 mg of CBD. This is a slightly higher value compared to cannabis wines from the U.S., which are around 40 mg per 750 ml volume. In California, vintner Muiris Griffin from Napa Valley is particularly known for such concoctions. Griffin, who has worked at Pape Clément, Opus One, Ridge and Round Pound, is accompanying a handful of start-ups that want to make CBD-infused drinks a trend. Above all, the U.S. products place great emphasis on sourcing grapes from renowned regions such as California’s Sonoma County and Napa Valley.
Hallucinating Romans and Gauls
“Instead of high alcohol levels, the sensation of cannabis wine is based on the addition of a water-soluble cannabis blend added to the wine. You can feel the effect in a few minutes,” is the credo of all start-ups in the cannabis scene. “With our ‘Burdi W’, we want to revitalize the Bordeaux wine market by rejuvenating it and reach a new audience interested in CBD-based products,” stresses de Pablo.
While the “Burdi W” is a first in France, mixed drinks with cannabis have long been nothing new. “There are already these wine-based drinks in neighboring Spain, but it was a CBD wine from California that gave me the idea of producing such a drink in France,” de Pablo sums up.
Now, cannabis-infused fermented grape juices are already in production or in final testing stages around the world. What many may not know is that the appropriate fortification of wine is an ancient craft. We are more familiar with the process from the production of mulled wine, where herbs and fruit flavors are blended with wine. Some articles on archaeological excavations talk about the fact that the Gaulish people and later the conquering Romans in what is now France produced and consumed hemp wine. Throughout antiquity, the hallucinatory effect was probably the goal – whether it is different today?