Over the past several years, the words “orange” and “glou” have accumulated shades of significance in the world of wine, recalibrated as descriptors both divisive and adulatory, depending on whom you ask and from which faction they hail. Recently, “orange” and “glou” have also been strung together to create the title for a new club focused on orange wines.
“I really wanted it to sound fun,” says Doreen Winkler, sommelier and founder of Orange Glou. “I knew I needed to have the word ‘orange,’ and I knew I wanted it to be unpretentious like glou glou drinking from France.” The club, however, is quite serious about its subject. Winkler enthusiastically proclaims herself “orange wine–obsessed,” having fallen down the rabbit hole of natural wine while building the list at the first iteration of Fredrik Berselius’ Aska in Brooklyn. “A lot of people didn’t know what to drink with dehydrated this or pickled whatnot, but that was big in Germany [where Winkler is from].”
Eventually, she decided to project her idée fixe onto a side business. Each month, Winkler, who currently consults at Trapizzino and Sel Rrose on New York’s Lower East Side, chooses three to six wines (subscriptions are $105 and $195 respectively), which she wraps, packs and sends to customers all over the country. The shipment often includes a pét-nat, and her selections span the globe, ranging from highly allocated producers (Radikon and Dlúhé Grefty) to the more obscure and lesser sung (Strekov from Slovakia and Porta Bohemica in the Czech Republic).
How orange must the wines be to qualify for Orange Glou? “Very orange. It should never be straw-yellow,” says Winkler. “I feel like there’s a lot of skin contact that’s not skin contact really. It’s really about the texture and the flavor.” Above all, she favors biodynamic wines with as little sulfur as possible.
But in a day and age where some have begun to decry the dilution of natural wine and its ever-expanding audience, it bears asking whether a subscription service might be one more indicator of the category’s overextension.
“There’s probably not enough orange wine for everyone,” says Winkler, acknowledging that even she, with all her connections and experience, can have a difficult time with sourcing. But her goals are modest. Currently, she has close to 50 subscribers, with hopes to top out at 100. And, due to allocation, not every customer will receive the same wines. Because only a case or two of, say, Matassa are available at a time, they, along with a handful of magnums like Tschida or Veselý, are distributed at her discretion or sold as separate offerings. Winkler is also meticulous about quality, noting that it’s no longer enough to trust labels or proclamations of “natural” and “biodynamic” at face value; she tastes everything she sends out, vetting their quality and methods with the producers themselves.
Having tailored a subscription model to her own liking, she’s also created a pop-up wine bar of the same name, which roves around New York (with events planned in L.A. and Chicago as well) offering a couple dozen orange wines by the glass and an R&B heavy playlist. It’s a place where the fervor for skin contact plays out in real life: At the last pop-up, guests were scrapping over two rare bottles from the Canary Islands made under flor.