I don’t claim to know a lot about wine but my hypothesis was that any sommelier would tell you the idea of grapes grown in large warehouses scattered about the Pacific Northwest is absurd. In the pursuit of knowledge, I took to the web to ask some wine enthusiasts what the wine industry thought of the idea of indoor grapes; their answers were none too surprising.
I had three main takeaways that I think are analog to cannabis.
- Growing grapes indoors is simply not scalable, an average 25.4 oz bottle of wine can take approximately 2.6 lbs of grapes. With an average yield of around 7 lbs per vine, you can imagine how big a warehouse would have to be to make sense.
- Different wines are what they are because of something called Terroir; a french term that does not have a direct translation in English but roughly means the factors that a region and/or growing season possesses that make the grapes grown there unique in their flavor.
- Wine grapes have a complex root system that puts 60% of the roots in the first 24 inches of soil while the rest can spread to be as far as 33 feet wide and up to 20 feet deep. Finding room for roots to spread as they naturally would is only viable outdoors.
How do these three things relate to cannabis one might ask?
- Cannabis grown indoors is often stunted and grown to be an average height between 2 and 4 feet while an outdoor plant can be anywhere from 5 to 8 feet tall on average. In some scenarios, I’ve personally seen outdoor plants that your average NBA player would have trouble dunking over. Northern California and Southern Oregon are known worldwide for naturally having the premier climate for cannabis cultivation. With that in mind, it is inevitable that a large portion of the cannabis consumed nationally will be from this region. In order to grow to the scale which will allow the whole country to “puff tuff” the outdoor flower has to reign supreme. After all; over 50% of all wine produced globally is from France, Italy, and Spain.
- Learning about the concept of Terroir was a delight for me. Each growing season offers a new opportunity for every Vintner (Winemaker) to produce the best version of their signature wine. The chance is there because of the fact that no two years are ever going to have an identical growing season. Maybe one year the sun didn’t shine as bright over Tuscany so the grapes didn’t ripen as much causing a more bitter flavor in their merlot. A Vintner doesn’t dispose of that crop, they share the vintage (year produced) and information on the growing season to explain why the merlot that year tastes how it does. A wine connoisseur will be delighted to learn the factors that created that merlot as that makes it uniquely it. In cannabis, we can’t even grow legally across the globe, and then in a lot of legal markets, they only grow indoors with a lack of variables to give the cannabis terroir. I’m insanely confident that the Southern Oregon/Northern Californian climate will continue to produce the best cannabis worldwide but I’ll be the first to admit that I want to get a taste of the rest of the world’s soil & sunlight.
- The root problem is pretty simple to understand because having a 33-foot wide soil patch that is also over 20 ft deep inside a warehouse is pretty unrealistic. Not to mention completely unviable to maintain/operate/profit from any volume that can be produced in a confined space. Applying this line of thinking to cannabis we have to wonder what may be lacking when you aren’t allowing a plant to take root naturally by shoving it in a pot or trough of chemical water. Are we losing the character of a cultivar by stunting it and pumping it full of plant steroids in a warehouse?
Cannabis growers and consumers should be taking notes from the premier wineries in the world. Why? Because the wine industry has been around a lot longer than cannabis and a lot of the problems we are seeing have been dealt with in the world of wine already. My hope is that cannabis can mature as an industry to provide education and cannabis to consumers nationwide so that they can select the highest quality products available to them.
I’ll leave you with the question that got me down this rabbit hole; “Why would you ever want to grow any cannabis indoors when you have a climate that is perfectly suited for cannabis naturally?”
Mac Zivney | Lead Account Executive