Do you like a glass of wine with your dinner in the evening? If so, you are not alone. In fact, 30% of Americans enjoy a glass of wine every single day. However, the future of wine drinking is changing as producers look for more biodynamic ways of growing the grapes. Producers are also looking to include unique ingredients and twists on flavors to reflect the changing tastes of drinkers. Hemp wine isn’t completely new to the market, and there has been a sticky situation with the U.S. government on getting it approved. While there are still varying laws on adding hemp extracts to wine from one state to the next, the legalization of hemp oil in 2004 has led to hemp wine surging in popularity.
Fighting through legislation
Back in 1999, Jim Castetter — an entrepreneur from New York — started Hemp Wine America. He began selling Hemp ‘n’ Wine using hemp oil that had been sourced from the Netherlands. There was a great response to his wine, but it wasn’t long before the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) learned of the hemp wine and ruled that both the labelling and the product were illegal.
This was sadly the end of Hemp Wine America. However, Castetter bided his time, still pursuing the idea of a hemp-infused homebrew, and in the meantime, the legal landscape changed. Since 2004, hemp oils and extracts have been legalized as long as there is no active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the product. Many states have also legalized hemp (although sadly not California, the biggest wine-producing state in America).
The resurgence of hemp wine
Fast forward to 2017, and 41 states in America have now legalized the use of hemp — but with several provisions. Some states still do not allow hemp-derived products to be infused into alcoholic drinks. Fortunately for Castetter, this didn’t include his home state of New York, so long as there is no THC extract. He was looking to change the way that consumers are drinking wine and how the public perceives the industry. There is a growing demand for more adventurous tastes and we are moving away from snooty cheese and wine parties. Wine can be enjoyed in a can as a casual drink, it can be shared with friends at a barbecue and you can experiment with different flavor profiles.
Castetter was finally granted a permit in 2017 to start Sovereign Wines, creating unique hemp-infused wine within New York. This was boosted by the New York Governor's plan to inject $10 million into the state’s hemp industry. There was still a battle with TTB who were stating that hemp is a controlled substance, however relying on the Farm Bill of December 2018, Sovereign Wines reapplied for a much needed federal permit to sell their wines nationally. For the first time ever, America’s inaugural hemp wine company was up and running.
There have been plenty of barriers to getting hemp wine onto the market. However, over the next few years, you may even find it in your local grocery store.