Glou-Glou is a term that first emerged in the 2000s to describe natural wines coming out of Beaujolais. It is meant to evoke the sound of liquid being poured rapidly from a bottle. In English, we might call it glug-glug. In general it refers to low alcohol wines that are juicy, light, and easy to drink often because they have been produced using carbonic maceration.
But the style has become ubiquitous in natural wine circles to the point that it defines the movement.
As Mallory Heyer writes in Punch:
Today, it has become an all-purpose infinitive—a noun, an adjective, a verb—that captures the free spirit of natural wine, but also its burgeoning free enterprise. “Glou-glou” has lent its charms and name to a magazine; to wine shops from Luxembourg to Vietnam; to a celebrity wine from Eric Wareheim, who at this point might be better known for his juicy reds than his absurdist comedy. In this age of natural wine evangelism, “glou-glou” has become a defining mantra, while simultaneously threatening to flatten the boundless world that inspired it. Glou-glou, wrote the wine writer Simon Woolf, “has now become a meta-profile for natural wine overall.”
This is not a good thing for the natural wine movement. It is stereotyping natural wine, forcing something that is wild, untamed, and unpredictable into a single, narrowly-focused style that is no doubt immensely popular but limited in the occasions and contexts in which it will seem appropriate. The message is basically, if you want a porch-pounder drink natural. If you want a wine to be savored, drink conventional.
There is nothing about native yeast fermentation, low sulfur, and minimal intervention that requires low alcohol, carbonic maceration, minimal tannins and no wood. Glou-glou is an optional style not a paradigm. Natural wine can be as profound as conventional wine if winemakers strive for difference and variation. I agree with the critics:
Critics of glou-glou’s growing dominance in the natural wine world, including 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; that is, they suggest glou-glou is a minor-scale repetition of Parkerization, a paradigm the natural wine movement has stood in stark contrast to.
This is precisely what natural wine used to be about—escaping the straight-jacket of conventional styles, opening up new ways for wine to be, expanding our horizons rather than falling in line.
It would be a shame if natural wines’ promise to be an avant-garde becomes the vinous equivalent of Ed Sheeran.