“Awesome wine makes you feel awesome” — preach. We love these wise words from Helen Johannesen, the rad lady who runs Helen’s Wines, an eponymous natural wine boutique inside LA’s Jon + Vinny’s, as well as the wine and bar programs for other quintessential hotspots like Animal, Trois Mex, Trois Familia and Sun of a Gun (We know. Impressive.)
For our most recent beauty gathering inside The Detox Market in Santa Monica, Helen joined Napa native and culty beauty founder, April Gargiulo of Vintner’s Daughter to talk all things natural, from wine to skincare, and what it’s like to be a mission-driven woman in business.
As we sipped our way through the tasting customized for our class, Helen spilled everything (but the wine itself) on cultivation and production practices, navigating a wine menu, and why drinking natural wine really is better for our health. Watch the full chat here and pick up our favorite learnings below…
Orange Wine is the new Rosé.
If you’re not already obsessed, now is the time to jump in; orange wine is about to be a red hot thing. Orange wine is made from leaving the skins on white wine grapes as they ferment. The result is a glass that’s as bright and easy to drink as your fave summer rose. Check out our Facebook Live with Helen to learn which bottles she’s loving most.
natural wines are Low-Alcohol Wines.
There’s a time and place for a 15% full-bodied red, but Helen typically prefers wine that’s closer to 12%. Not only is it less intoxicating (we get more glasses of it!), but it’s healthier too. Low alcohol indicates low sugar (it’s science, people) and that means less of a hangover the next day. The good news: most naturally made wines are also lower in alcohol!
Know Who’s Behind Your Bottle.
Admittedly, it takes a bit of work to find specific winemakers whose practices and product are natural and clean. Memorize a list of distributors instead. According to Helen, this is a foolproof way to judge the quality of your wine. If you’re ordering with a somm, drop a few of these distributors name and they’ll get the right idea.
There’s A Perfect Wine for Thanksgiving.
Beaujolais is the wine that “turned me onto natural wines” – it’s also Helen’s recommendation for the ultimate Thanksgiving wine (her other picks are gamay and cab franc).
The ‘Rule’ of Gifting Wine.
Helen shared that, when gifting wine at a party, she always brings one bottle to drink now and another for the friend to drink later. As a rule, if gifting a bottle of wine, don’t necessarily expect the pal to open there and then! By gifting ‘Helen style’ the feeling of abundance creates a sense of ease; enjoy now, enjoy later, just be sure you enjoy.
The creepiest wine ingredient Ever.
Did you know some wine makers mix shrimp shells into their recipes to help clarify the color of the wine? If that doesn’t turn you into a natural wine freak, we may not be able to help you.
Going Natural With Wine Actually Matters
It’s not just for the niche conversations. Unlike other food products, wine doens’t have a nutrition label, an ingredient list or many regulations to speak of at all. Making an effort to drink natural wines means we’re more likely to avoid creepy ingredients, unethical production methods, and sugar overload. Start small — begin by learning about the winemakers behind your favorite varietals.
Learning About Wine is Easy.
The best way to learn about wine is to try a bunch and take notes. Learn what you like, where it comes from, and think about what flavors you might detect (if you’re a newbie or just plain stumped Helen says just fake it til you make it!). For the newbie who wants know it all, Helen’s top recommended resource is Windows on the World.
Find more of Helen’s tips for getting into natural wines here!
Shrimp shells are a natural, more environmental way to preserve wine. You know, to keep it from spoiling? I’d rather quaff that than sulfites, which are the standard preservatives.