Rebecca – Bex – Donnison knows how to play. Read about her latest discoveries in after-work indulgence.
“Nothing happens until something moves” Einstein
Besides feeling absolutely fabulous, who doesn’t love absolutely fabulous wines? That must have been exactly what the two owners of Amsterdam winebar GlouGlou in De Pijp were thinking.
GlouGlou or ‘glug glug’ is definitely not your average wine bar. This bar and shop specialises in ‘vin naturel’ – a new movement in the world of wine which is definitely gathering momentum. It is no surprise that plenty of bars in Paris, London and NYC are far ahead of us when it comes to wine. But this new kid on the block is finally heading our way.
For those of us who haven’t yet taken a real interest in wine, winemaking is considered to be a complex matter and it takes years of studying (and drinking) to become an expert. As grapes are defined by climate, soil and agriculture, these all have a great impact on how a wine tastes. But one shouldn’t forget about the actual winemaking process either. Recent trends in organic and local food movements, like producing more biological and sustainable foods, have found favour with a number of wine producers too. You’ve probably come across terms like organic, biodynamic and maybe even ‘vin natural’ on wine lists or labels – but what do these really mean?
It appears not everyone has a full understanding or appreciation when it comes to the use of the word ‘natural’. In general there are no strict specifics and codification when it comes to this type of wine, which in the world of fine wine is rather uncommon. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the term has been introduced to define differences in cellar practices. ‘Natural’ tells us that this type of wine is not only produced from organically grown grapes, but also without adding or removing anything during the winemaking process. In other words: there’s been minimal chemical and technological intervention in growing the grapes and making the wine.
I won’t bore you with too many details, but it comes down to a few basics – for instance no additional yeast or yeast-starters are added to the naturally present yeast in the grape juice (yeast converts the sugars to alcohol). There’s no oak ageing in barrels, which normally influences colour, flavour and texture. No clearing of the finished wines, which might keep them somewhat cloudy. And, most importantly, no or limited use of sulfite, which is usually used to preserve the wine and destroy bacteria. Therefore, winemakers who choose not to use sulfite have to be skilled, hygienic and precise, otherwise the quality of the wine could be at risk.
The really cool thing about there being no rules when it comes to ‘vin naturel’ is that there is a shared belief that its makers actually care. In fact, the rise of this counter-cultural movement started as a reaction against winemaking for the masses. Besides, there is little financial benefit to be gained from this process (yet!) – it’s about making wine out of passion, not for profit. The artisanal vineyards aim to harvest a natural product whilst maintaining a healthy agriculture and ecosystem. As one can imagine, this contributes to a better environment as well as to the bodies of its consumers. A fun fact for you: sulfite is the biggest culprit when it comes to hangovers, can this get any better?
What does ‘vin naturel’ taste like, you might wonder? Well, some may say it’s everything a wine shouldn’t be — orangey, cloudy, fizzy — even comparisons with apple cider have been made. On the other hand, this uniquely crisp and acidity flavoured wine could be exactly to your taste. In general, these types of wines are somewhat lighter with softer finishes and lower alcohol content.
It’s useless to debate whether natural winegrowers are better winemakers than traditional ones. They just do things differently, there is no right or wrong. More so, because there are plenty of vineyards that make natural wine without actually saying so on the label. Nevertheless, it is a very good thing that there are people out there taking a stand, making something they believe in and challenging the status quo, as such passion and determination is super-inspiring.
Excited to try? Head on over to GlouGlou, where they’ll be happy to share their passion for natural wine with you. Just let yourself be advised by the staff, try a few and be your own judge. And why not choose some rillette, cut meats or cheeses to accompany your ‘vin naturel’. Once you’ve picked your favourite, take a bottle home with you for a 15-euro discount.
Not in the neighbourhood? Try your local wine dealer. Or visit Vleck (Amsterdam) or Wilde Wijnen (Rotterdam).