07 August 2018

"Natural wine" and "glou glou" explained

As explained by The Guardian:
‘Natural wine’ advocates say everything about the modern industry is ethically, ecologically and aesthetically wrong – and have triggered the biggest split in the wine world for a generation...

A recent study showed that 38% of wine lists in London now feature at least one organic, biodynamic or natural wine (the categories can overlap) – more than three times as many as in 2016. “Natural wines are in vogue,” reported the Times last year. “The weird and wonderful flavours will assault your senses with all sorts of wacky scents and quirky flavours.”

As natural wine has grown, it has made enemies. To its many detractors, it is a form of luddism, a sort of viticultural anti-vax movement that lauds the cidery, vinegary faults that science has spent the past century painstakingly eradicating. According to this view, natural wine is a cult intent on rolling back progress in favour of wine best suited to the tastes of Roman peasants. The Spectator has likened it to “flawed cider or rotten sherry” and the Observer to “an acrid, grim burst of acid that makes you want to cry”...

Once you know what to look for, natural wines are easy to spot: they tend to be smellier, cloudier, juicier, more acidic and generally truer to the actual taste of grape than traditional wines. In a way, they represent a return to the core elements that made human beings fall in love with wine when we first began making it, around 6,000 years ago...

The haziness of what actually counts as natural wine is particularly maddening to such traditionalists. “There is no legal definition of natural wine,” Michel Bettane, one of France’s most influential wine critics, told me. “It exists because it proclaims itself so. It is a fantasy of marginal producers.” Robert Parker, perhaps the world’s most powerful wine critic, has called natural wine an “undefined scam”...

..as natural wine advocates point out, the way most wine is produced today looks nothing like this picture-postcard vision. Vineyards are soaked with pesticide and fertiliser to protect the grapes, which are a notoriously fragile crop...

The modern winemaker has access to a vast armamentarium of interventions, from supercharged lab-grown yeast, to antimicrobials, antioxidants, acidity regulators and filtering gelatins, all the way up to industrial machines. Wine is regularly passed through electrical fields to prevent calcium and potassium crystals from forming, injected with various gases to aerate or protect it, or split into its constituent liquids by reverse osmosis and reconstituted with a more pleasing alcohol to juice ratio.

Natural winemakers believe that none of this is necessary...
And more at Grub Street:
Some quibble over which methods count as “natural,” from filtering to machine-harvesting to vineyard architecture. (“I’m offended by vines on a wire. It’s slavery,” a Spanish winemaker tells Lepeltier and Alice Feiring in their book The Dirty Guide to Wine.) Some use prehistoric winemaking methods, like subterranean fermentation in clay amphorae. The semiotics of what counts as “natural,” and why, and who gets to decide, can be a source of rancor...  Whatever the process, the results can be downright funky: white wines that can be amber, orange, and cloudy. Red wines that resemble fizzy beet juice and occluded amethysts. The flavors can be intense and unfamiliar — savory, salty, and startlingly sour. These wines flout the conventions of connoisseurship, but among the city’s wine geeks and sommeliers, natural wine has an intense following. Justin Chearno, the wine director at the Four Horsemen, describes himself as “really, really, really evangelical,” especially early in his career. After Cork Dork author Bianca Bosker’s dismissal of “so-called natural wines” appeared last year in the New York Times, she says she received hate mail...

There’s a lot of really fucked-up natural wine out there,” says Jon Bonné, author of The New Wine Rules, who was, for almost a decade, wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle...
But enough shit-talking. Let’s talk manure. That horse-shit scent, politely called “barnyard,” is the product of Brettanomyces, a bacterium present in many wines. Lepeltier, a partner at downtown bistro Racines NY, explained: “It triggers some sexual stuff. And I’m sure about that.” Lepeltier has a degree in philosophy and total certainty in her opinions and taste. Like a musky perfume, barnyard wines appeal to “something very, very primitive in us. So that’s one reason [people like it]. And the second thing is: You can recognize it.”
And now it's time to explain "glou glou" -
As a recent feature in Fortune explained, “The French, perfecters of both making and consuming natural wine, have an onomatopoeic term for this, glou glou, the sound these easy-drinking reds and whites make hurtling down your throat on a warm June day.” This is wine designed to be gulped, not sipped. Glou glou is both demonstratively and deceptively simple. A visibly unfiltered wine shows off its maker’s rustic approach to viniculture. But that is only possible when the wine is elaborate — organic, biodynamic, location-specific, and labor-intensive.

The glou glou aesthetic applies to more than wine. Glou glou is a stripped-down renovation that showcases a building’s “bones.” It’s not wearing makeup and looking great, because you’re well rested and have an elaborate skin-care routine. (Natural wine, like natural beauty, requires long-term commitment. Minimalism works best when it’s minimal only on the surface.) Glou glou is passing a Polaroid camera around the party (then arranging the Polaroids into an artful display and photographing that with your iPhone). Glou glou is serving caviar with potato chips, as they do at Brunette, a natural-wine bar run by a married couple, designers who ditched New York City for the Hudson Valley. The tabletops are unadorned marble. The walls are whitewashed brick.

Glou glou is a maddening form of luxury, one that simultaneously rejects and performs elitism. Glou glou rejects the near past in favor of a modernized version of the old past. This makes glou glou incomprehensible to tastemakers from the near past — the ones who abandoned whatever elements of the old past glou glou seeks to resurrect. But here’s the worst part: Everyone who partakes in glou glou knows this. Glou glou is self-conscious, self-aware, and self-critical. Glou glou is how millennials do snob.

Like all trends associated with millennials, glou glou boils down to economics...
Lots more at the links, both of which are longreads.   None of this matters to TYWKIWDBI; we are perfectly content swilling an occasional bottle of cheap pinot grigio.  My initial impetus for blogging this topic was the photo of that awesome piece of farm equipment at the top.


  1. That photo stopped me in my tracks, too.

    Somewhat related: when I was studying abroad in France as a student back in 1996, I went on different retreats with groups of French students. During dinners and parties, there were moments when the entire group would break into song. There was one song, I didn't quite understand, but enjoyed watching. It seemed to focus on one person in the room, they'd stand, and all would sing to them. Eventually a chorus of "Glou-eh, glou-eh, glou-eh ..." would erupt and the person standing was expected to finish the drink in front of them. I didn't come from a drinking culture. I didn't drink in college. So it was mind blowing for me. But it was fun to watch.


  2. my friends have a small vineyard to which they invite friends to help with the harvest. you get scissors, and a bucket, and you snip off the bunch, then snip out the bad grapes into the bucket, and place the left over good bunch in a tray. the payoff - a great lunch with plenty of wines to try from the previous years, and, a bottle of wine to take home. their wines are good, as they are careful, but the taste is different year to year.


  3. LOL, glou-glou. there will always be hipsters, by whatever name, in whatever time...everything is cyclical, fashion most of all. the quaffable, undistinguished plonk of one generation is destined to become the fad of another. (see also the renaissance of PBR (pabst's blue ribbon) as the beer of choice for hipsters and wanna-bes for a period of years just a bit back...

    per the natural wine discussion, i'm kind of a wine nut. i've had natural wines that were amazing, and some that were appalling. but i can say that about many mainstream "conventional" (modern) wines as well. i suspect, like so much else in life, that the best wine is to be found in the meeting of the two approaches. modern wine-making has, in many cases, gone too far in the manipulation of things and lost some of the soul of wine in that process. and it's undeniable that vineyards which practice contemporary "input-heavy" cultivation are as toxic and water-wasteful as many other forms of agribusiness-influenced agriculture. using more environmentally sensitive approaches is more responsible, and i believe results in better wine. a combination of working respectfully, even humbly, with the land and the grapes, like the natural wine philosophy does, and using the nuanced understanding of what makes a good wine, consistently though not identically, drawn from scientific approaches, could result in some really beautiful and interesting wine-making; it would improve the land stewardship as well.

  4. I'm currently singing in a production of Offenbach's opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann (the tales of Hoffmann), in which the opening lyrics, sung by a troupe of student drunkards, are:

    "Glou, glou, glou, glou, glou, glou, glou... je suis le vin!"

  5. One assumes that glou-glou is cognate / more or less identical to the English onomatopoeia glug-glug.


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