Owner of Glou-Glou Wines, an importing and distribution company specializing in small production natural wines.
ME: How did you get in the wine business?
JS: I worked in restaurants for many years before and during my college days. After working in corporate accounting for two years, it was time to make a move. I leveraged my contacts and started working for a distributor. Having always wanted to move to Spain, I randomly ended up in France with 40 days advance notice.
ME: What has surprised you about the wine world?
JS: I find it funny that natural wine has been equated with hipsters. If you go abroad and meet the people behind these wines, they are anything but hipster. They are farmers that wear dirty boots and jeans…they are workers. There are some young ones out there, but there are people 60 [years] and older that are making natural wines.
ME: Why Glou-Glou?
JS: This is a term the French use for wines that are chuggable (not actually a word). The wines do not have to be super light because higher- alcohol, full-bodied wines can be very balanced and easy drinking; the common denominator is freshness. Wine is made from the juice of a fruit; therefore, it should taste as such. Remember the times of being young, playing outside on a hot day and then slamming back a glass of fruit juice? Wine should be refreshing.
ME: Why did you focus on importing natural wines?
JS: These are the wines I like drinking. Working in wine sales can be tough if you do not believe the products that you sell. I liked these wines before moving to France, although I did not fully understand the concept at the time. I connected with the right people in France and was neck deep in these wines.
ME: How did you find your producers?
JS: From my favorite wine bars in Dijon: O gré du Vin and La Cave se Rebiffe. Although situated in the capital of Burgundy, they do not focus on her wines because they are very expensive, need much time to evolve and for the most part are manipulated and overworked. They had wines from some of the best producers in all of France and local-ish winemakers would come by to make deliveries, hang out, drink and party. Imagine drinking a wine and expressing your interest to the owner of the shop and he says, “hey that is the producer over there, let me introduce you”. After getting to know some people, I found myself in cellars and vineyards.
ME: Do you think natural wine is a trend or here to stay?
JS: It is definitely a trend that is here to stay. Throughout time, many trends morphed into normal status. Remember that organics were once considered trendy, a concept that always was. Natural wine is beyond the wine itself, it is a rejection of corporate conglomerates that are poisoning the earth. The movement has been underground for quite some time and it is not about fame, money or status; but more so passion, integrity, farming, community and sharing. As with any trend, there will be imitators, fakers, and critics, but this happens in all industries.
ME: Who are some of your favorite natural wine producers and why?
JS: Obviously, it is some of my imports, but others as well. For me, I adore my Beaujolais producers (JF Cuzin, La Dernière Goutte and Jérome Balmet) and they all have completely different styles. Cru Beaujolais is becoming expensive, concentrated and in warmer vintages – heavy. Everyone I work with is in the village vineyards, which are not taken as seriously, but these wines can stand toe to toe (I think they are better) with the cru wines. Romain Chapuis is based in Burgundy and his approach to natural is highlighting the exact profile of a grape in its purest form. That sounds pretty obvious, but you must taste his wines to understand. I never thought Alsatian wines could be so fresh until tasting the wines from Jean-Pierre Rietsch. His Gewurztraminer is so acidic and fresh and those terms are really used to describe Gewurztraminer.
I have a love affair with Emilia-Romagna, and for me, Cà de Noci is hands down the best producer of Lambrusco. I also adore the wines of La Stoppa and Denavolo because these wines have a distinct personality and character. Domestically, the Riesling pet-nat from J. Brix is by the far the best domestic pet-nat I have encountered. Actually, it is one of my favorite in the world that I have tasted recently. Cacique Maravilla makes pristinely clean natural wines from Chile.