Four Questions (Plus one) for Jessica Selander, Founder and CEO of Jøyus Non-Alcoholic Wines
Many people like wine for many different reasons. Sure, there’s the buzz. But there’s also the pop of the cork, the fizz of the rosé, the aroma, the pairing notes, the bottle and label and the presentation. There’s also just something adult about a glass of wine. A sense, like the grape, that you’ve matured to a certain dignified state.
But what if you’re no longer a drinker? How can you fit in amongst wine sippers? Enter: the sober- and woman-owned wine company, Jøyus. For $24.99 wine lovers can get everything they’ve always wanted from the beverage, besides the alcoholic buzz.
Truly, Jøyus is a product worth having if you’re expecting a crowd or throwing a fancy event where some sober guests don’t want Pepsi swirling in their flute. And to get a sense of Seattle-based Jøyus, we tracked down the company’s founder, Jessica Selander, to find out where the idea came from and what’s next for Jøyus.
When did the idea for the non-alcoholic winery come to mind and what was the seed of necessity in the idea for you?
I wanted to start a non-alcoholic winery about 10 years ago. And I started working on it about six to seven years ago. But I hit a lot of walls. I put a pause on things when I became pregnant with my long awaited second child. (My kids are five years apart. We were originally hoping for two years!) When the pandemic hit, like for a lot of people, it made me question and reevaluate what I was doing with my life. So, I picked the project back up, and went after it again as hard as I could — and here we are.
I’ve been sober for over 16 years now, which means I’ve spent pretty much every adult-life moment alcohol-free. I drank Martinelli’s when I got married, got a new job, or when anything special happens. And I’m grateful [Martinelli’s] exists. But I just felt like I was still at the kiddie table. I wanted wine. I loved wine and everything about it. The taste, the ritual, the celebration and togetherness. I just didn’t want the alcohol in it.
The business is both women- and sober-owned. What do these mean to you?
Jøyus is both woman- and sober-owned, which means we deeply understand the non-alcoholic wine drinker on a personal level. I know what it’s like to not be able to participate like everyone else because I’ve been there. I know how it feels and I know the pressure people put on you to drink and I’ve gotten all the invasive questions people ask about it. I understand not wanting to tell people you’re pregnant yet because it’s early or you’re worried. And I understand what it feels like to stare at a countertop filled with wine bottles on a girls’ weekend while you’ve got a soda pop in your hand. It’s hard. It’s really hard. When I have my non-alcoholic wine, I’m drinking something that looks, tastes and smells like what they’re drinking and I’m drinking mine out of the same glasses they are. That feeling of being different disappears. And the invasive questions don’t happen.
The non-alcoholic “movement” is growing and your wine seems a perfect product for women who are with-child. How do you see the non-alcoholic market growing in the next, say, 10-30 years?
Our non-alcoholic wines are great for everyone! There’s a lot of people that don’t drink alcohol. Maybe they’re pregnant, yes, but a lot of medications cause people to stop drinking, depression, cancers, surgery, addiction issues, various religions, or their bodies just stop processing alcohol as well as it used to. Especially as they get older. I hope in the next five-to-ten years we see a cultural shift into more inclusive drinking. When you go to a get-together, there’s regular wine there and non-alcoholic wine so everyone can participate.
Can you talk about how alcohol is removed from wine, in case people don’t understand how that works, generally?
People often think non-alcoholic wine is grape juice and that it’s going to taste like grape juice. But Jøyus is an “alcohol-removed” wine. Our wine is a blend of varietals, mainly comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, French Colombard, Chenin Blanc and other whites. Not all wines dealcoholize well, so a perfect balanced blend ensures the best end-result for our customers. After the wine is properly aged it goes through a gentle process to remove the alcohol. Using innovative equipment and the latest and best technology in the country, we capture and preserve the delicate flavors, aroma and compounds of the wine, resulting in the highest quality dealcoholized wine on the market.
What do you personally enjoy about the act or ritual of sipping — what makes it so fun?
Drinking wine is social, it’s cultural, and a part of pretty much every celebration. But for some people the alcohol part of it is what doesn’t work for them. For me, it stopped working and wasn’t fun anymore. Being able to drink a great tasting wine that doesn’t have the alcohol in it brings back all the positive aspects of wine drinking for me. I can enjoy the taste, but even more than that I can participate in social situations like everyone else. I can celebrate like everyone else. I don’t have to feel left out or painfully different.
Historically, there are some people in the industry that haven’t been that receptive to non-alcoholic wine. And I’ve talked with some industry people that are almost offended by the idea of it. I wish they could understand that alcohol-removed wine is really a love letter to traditional alcohol wine. There is cultural significance to wine drinking, but many of us for one reason or another can’t participate anymore and still want to. I’ve done everything I can to make my wines taste like traditional wine (and we have the industry awards to prove it!) and to make the experience the same for people.
I give my wines the same love, care and respect that are normally given to traditional wine. Because I want people who aren’t drinking alcohol, but still love wine, to have that same special experience! People are overjoyed when they find us because they LOVE wine, they miss wine! And now they can have it again.
The Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Rosé won a gold medal, and the Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Wine (our white) won a bronze in The San Francisco International Wine Competition—the oldest and largest blind tasting in the country. Jøyus was among over 3,000 entries submitted from over 31 countries. The only non-alcoholic wine on the market to win gold in an industry wine competition.