Beaujolais is in such high demand there’s an allocation on the good bottles from makers known, like the 1970s political punk band, as the Gang of Four; and somewhere north of Rome, nuns are burying cow horns filled with dung in their vineyard grounds and howling at the full moon to heal the earth while they make wine. But here in Houston, folks are gearing up to ward off the summer heat with approachable wines that sommeliers around town agree boil down to pretty much one thing.
“Glou-glou,” says Thomas Moësse, wine director at Vinology, a well-dressed shop and tasting bar in West University that oenophiles have been flocking to since its opening in late 2016. “It’s all about the glou-glou.”
Glou-glou is basically a daintier, French way of saying glug glug, describing the sound of wine going easily down the hatch. These wines are also referred to as vins de soif: wines that quench the thirst. They’re totally crushable. They’re perfect for the heat, like all that rosé that folks are sucking down at Bobby Heugel’s new Heights bar, Better Luck Tomorrow, and those acidic whites and mouthwatering reds you keep downing with kebabs from the backyard grill.
Glou-glou wines tend to have a lower alcohol content too. “Think about session beers,” Moësse says. “They were basically created to drink at lunch. Glou-glou wines are the same thing.” That can mean everything from ciders to coastal whites from the Basque country. “Drinking is sort of an all-day thing there, so they make some great -options.”
“In terms of glou-glou, the beginning wine customer is looking to make that leap from blush wine to moscato,” says Russ Stephenson, wine director at Central Market, which recently underwent a huge $10 million revamp that includes an expanded, impressive wine area. For most longtime oenophiles perusing the grocery’s Fine Wine Wall, a rosé might come with a stigma, a veritable White Zinfandel tramp stamp. “Remember Macaroni Grill, how they had those jug wines, the dark, the white and the blush? It made a powerful impression in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Today there are more than 100 different rosés, 90 percent of which are dry. “If I can just get a customer to taste one, something from southern France, say; it’s light, refreshing. You can pair it with both shrimp and steak.”
For neophytes too, wandering into the everyman’s booze hub Spec’s in Midtown and asking for glou-glou is probably not an option. But mention summer wines, or refreshing wines, and you’ll likely be led to the aisle where dozens of rosés deliver the goods. “Rombauer chardonnay is still strong as ever,” Bill Coates of Spec’s says. “But rosé is trending up every year. Fifty by Fifty. That’s a hot one. By the guy from Devo, Gerald Casale.” Also hot at Spec’s: cavas and albarinos.
Over at beloved wine bar 13 Celsius in Midtown, you’ll find enormous empty bottles of the popular AIX rosé behind the bar, but sommelier Adele Corrigan has more options to beat the heat as well. “The Domaine Sérol ‘Turbullent’ is definitely a glou-glou.” It’s 100 percent sparkling rosé and only 8.5 percent alcohol. “So you can just devour that on the patio.” It’s crisp and dry as all get-out, an aspect that’s carrying over into the world of whites as well. In terms of what she’s selling, she says, “Oaky, buttery Chardonnays have definitely fallen off.”
Glou-glou Wine: Adami Prosecco ($17.99) or Nora Albarino ($14.99) at Central Market, Birichino ($23) at Vinology, Domaine Sérol “Turbullent” gamay rosé ($13/glass) at 13 Celsius, St. Reginald’s Parish “The Marigny Carbonic Maceration” Rosé ($59) at BLT, -Domaine La Suffrene ($22.99) at Spec’s.
For ample glou-glou enjoyment, Justin Vann, the wine whiz behind Oxheart and vino havens Public Services Wine & Whisky and Better Luck Tomorrow, also suggests stepping into the fun indie world of the pét-nat, which sounds like the newest starring member of your flea circus but in reality is short for pétillant naturel. These are sparkling, unfiltered wines that achieve their fizz in the bottle after the first fermentation through the creation of natural carbon dioxide. It’s the oldest known way of making bubbly wine. It’s also a method that’s going through a newfound hipster renaissance: wine for the craft beer crowd. Esquire recently likened the experience of buying pét-nats to that of seeking out good vinyl. They usually have cool labels and crown caps, like bottled beer. Just pop the top.
“They represent a less serious side to sparkling wine for not a lot of money,” Vann says. There are inconsistencies from vineyard to vineyard and even from bottle to bottle, but a high attention to detail makes a few stand out in the loosey-goosey world of winemaking. For the best of pét-nats, he recommends searching for wines from the Loire Valley or the Basque country. “I’m obsessed with Les Capriades right now. It’s so good. High acid. Refreshing. Definitely glou-glou.”
At Vinology, Moësse sells bottles of Zero Infinito, a pét-nat from the small mountain village of Faedo, Italy, with a probiotic, yeasty sediment that settles at the bottom. He pours a taste for customers, Prosecco-crisp. Then he stops up the bottle and reintroduces the sediment, using a sloth-paced shake like that of a bartender captured in slo-mo. The wine turns a cloudy, peachy color and tastes like the best bellini you’ve ever had. This is like two wines in one, not too shabby for $29, but at home you’ll want to just mix it up before opening it for your Saturday night or your Sunday brunch.
Houston, like the rest of America, has only recently latched onto choices other than vinho verde, Stephenson notes. He’ll be expanding his natural wine selection at Central Market in the coming months.
Pét-Nats: Donkey and Goat “Lily” Sparkling wine from California ($41.99) at Central Market or the Paltrinieri “Radice” Lambrusco di Modena 2014 ($22.50), Zero Infinito ($29) at Vinology, Les Capriades ($16 by the glass) at Public Services Wine & Whisky.
People are also getting into some “weird and geeky stuff” other than glou-glou, Corrigan says. And possibly the coolest thing people are ordering by the glass at 13 Celsius these days: orange wine.
A Georgian wine, Kakheti, offers up a very tannic sensation, drying out your mouth like a red. Definitely not glou-glou. But the Coenobium, a biodynamic orange wine made by nuns in Italy’s Lazio district in a vineyard that rests atop volcanic soil, manages to keep a refreshing bent perfect for the patio, though it’s complex enough to bust out for the old turtleneck and sweater vest set as well.
“If rosé is having a moment, then what you might expect in a few months to a year is the onset of the orange wine craze,” agrees Stephenson. In fact, rosé has aided in this budding trend of white wines that taste like reds. Orange wines are even made like reds, allowed to macerate with their grape skins left on, which creates the signature orangish color and nutty, tannic body.
“You might or might not be seeing it on the menu soon at BLT,” Vann says. Right now, though, he has been busy selling so much rosé at the bar that BLT has gone through a three-month supply in one month.
Orange Wine: Coenobium ($16 by the glass) at 13 Celsius, or the Skerk Bianco ($44.99) from Slovenia at Central Market.
If you’re unwilling to give up reds this summer, Corrigan gushes over a biodynamic, barnyardy red called Ezio Trinchero, a Barbera from the Piedmont. “You can kind of meditate over that one.” And Beaujolais is pretty popular right now, with Vann admitting that he’s scared the cost is going to rise and Moësse noting that he can’t even post to social media when Vinology gets a new shipment of particular bottles because people go crazy. Plus, it has a certain glou-glou, a crushability, since it's light bodied and refreshing.
If you can’t bring yourself to even utter the words glou-glou out loud, don’t be forlorn.
“Big red cabs are as popular as they’ve ever been,” Coates says, studying the aisles of Spec’s Midtown headquarters. “South Africa is starting to get big, though. Tamboerskloof [shiraz] is hot property here. We’re the only people in the U.S. to sell it.”
And there’s always another, far more annoying trend that probably deserves to die a slow death first. “Canned wine,” Vann says. “It’s a huge part of the market right now. There’s even sake in a can. I’ll admit, Ramona is a good spritzer in a can with grapefruit. But I don’t know. I still don’t fucking want it.”
Summer Reds: Raisins Gaulois ($16.50) at Vinology, Scarpetta Barbera ($17.95) or Sigalas “Santorini” Assyrtiko ($24.99) at Central Market, Ezio Trinchero ($13 by the glass) at 13 Celsius, Olivier Salvary Pinot Noir ($12/glass) at BLT, Tamboerskloof Shiraz ($14) at Spec’s.