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Glou-Glou and U
Glou-Glou 101. Over the last few years I have come to prefer younger red wines that are especially good chilled. And there are many winemakers making these fun, easy-drinking reds, often made using carbonic maceration, which is a fermentation technique that results in wine with bright acidity, low tannins, and a snap-crackle-pop texture. And when chilled they are fresh, gluggable, and sometimes known as glou-glou or vins de soif. These wines are often associated with the Beaujolais region and their crushable Gamays, but their qualities of being lighter with lower alcohol and higher acidity can be found in many other grape varieties. Look out for chillable reds from producers like Julie & Toby Bainbridge, Lammidia, Las Jaras, Martha Stoumen, Milan Nestarec, Populis, Ruth Lewandoski, to name a few. Plus, there’s the recently released 2022 Fronte-Snack, a collab between Trail Estate and the Grape Witches, a carbonic Frontenac blend described as juice that “rocket-soars across your palate and crash lands into an ocean of glee.”
A Brief History of Glou-Glou was written in 2018 by Aaron Ayscough (author of the book The World of Natural Wine and the newsletter Not Drinking Poison) who did a deep dive on the terminology and origins of glou-glou.
An onomatopoeic noun-turned-adjective imitative of both the sound of liquid leaving a bottleneck and of the rapid gulping of said liquid, glou-glou leads a small pack of recent French lexicographical imports driven by the surging global interest in French natural wine. (C.f. the phrases pét’-nat’ and vin de soif.) A glou is what Anglophones call a “glug”; a wine that is glou-glou is one that invites glugging. As such the phrase has found particular caché when applied to the bright, cool-carbonic-macerated natural red wines of the Beaujolais and the Loire valley.
Ayscough goes on to write about the earliest documented usage of the term (1666!) and how it may have become more popularized (by Marcel Lapierre of the Gang of Four who helped launch the natural wine movement in the 1970s!).
A Natural Wine Aesthetic. In Punch's Wait, Sorry, What Is “Glou-Glou” Again? Danny Chau writes about how glou-glou is not just a style of wine, but for some it represents “the whole natural wine aesthetic.” Chau starts off by writing about NY-based natural wine importer Jenny Lefcourt, who had a wine awakening in the 90s when light-bodied reds from the Loire Valley inspired Lefcourt to start her importing business, Jenny & François Selections.
The ensuing two decades have seen natural wine skyrocket, and with it, “glou-glou,” a term that seemed to emerge spontaneously in the aughts to describe the bright, revelatory Beaujolais wines of Marcel Lapierre.
Chau goes on to write about about how glou-glou captures the spirit of natural wine, describing it as a "divergence from the perceived austerity of more traditional wine culture.” But not everyone feels the same way:
Critics of glou-glou’s growing dominance in the natural wine world, including [wine writer Simon] Woolf, suggest the methods of achieving such juiciness (including carbonic maceration) deny a wine full access to the terroir it was born of, and thus standardize an almost-universal flavor profile.