After a hard day's work in the vineyard, Konpira Maru winemaker Alastair Reed reaches for a cold glass of light red wine. He's not alone. Easy-drinking light reds are increasingly popular across Australia thanks to bright acidity and fruit-forward flavours. The climate begs for them to be chilled.
The style is often referred to as glou-glou (French for "glug-glug") or "smashable" in hip bars and wine merchants across the nation. Glou-glou (pronounced "glue-glue") can be applied to any wine that invites glugging and local-made versions are taking the world by storm.
Reed and his business partner Sam Cook launched their multiregional wine brand in 2013 and made a soft red three years later.
"We made a red in New England [NSW] with Sam's old school buddy Jared Dixon from Jilly Wines," says Reed. "The wine was absolutely magnificent. When chilled it had really high red fruit notes, tannin and softness that came from the small amount of retained solids.
"People started asking us about our chilled reds – it was clearly a style that was becoming more popular but sometimes you don't see things until they hit a critical threshold. Then you see it everywhere."
These days, Victoria-based Reed and Queensland-based Cook make two reds specifically to chill. Their 2021 Square Root of Five is a light sangiovese made from a blend of grapes from King Valley's King River Estate and the Grampians' Aradale Vineyard. The Konpira Maru 2021 Voltron was made from five varieties from five different regions.
"Sam and I were playing pub cricket last week and grabbed a bottle of the Voltron out of the Esky and shared it," says Reed. "It was interesting to gauge random people's response. It really struck a chord."
The international market loves it, too. "Every single market, particularly the US and Canada, cries out for light reds from Australia," says Reed. "It's interesting how tastes coalesce around the world. In the UK they say 'we like your shiraz but can you also send over a heap of light red?'"
For the team at Konpira Maru, "it's worth it just because it is bloody great to drink ourselves", says Reed. That's also what drove Limestone Coast winemaker Matilda Innes to make her bright Taschini Pinot Gris Graciano Sangiovese.
Innes' debut release, the 2020 Taschini, was announced as a "Wine to Watch" by 2021 Limestone Coast Wine Show chief of judges Corrina Wright who praised it for its juicy, modern style.
"Selfishly, part of the reason I made it was because it's just what I wanted to drink," says Innes. "It's the style I like to drink all year round, especially over summer.
"There's such demand for light reds with a little bit of chill on them and the market is moving away from traditional rosé. These wines have a little bit more body to them but they're bright, vibrant and smashable."
Innes and her partner Paul Stone run the newly refurbished Coonawarra restaurant and tasting room Ottelia. "The light red is probably one of the biggest movers through the restaurant," she says.
"It's a really approachable style and it fits into a few boxes. It's something that people who only drink white wine and who don't like red enjoy. It bridges those categories."
In South Australia's McLaren Vale, Year Wines owner and winemaker Luke Growden also kicks goals with glou-glou.
Growden and wife Caleigh Hunt were Young Gun of Wine's Best New Act in 2015 and have regularly appeared as finalists in the national awards since. Their minimal intervention wines include Sausage and Bread, a chilled blend of mataro, grenache, graciano and cabernet.
"We're all drinking lighter styles now and I think we'll be seeing more of them," Growden says. "It's a style that can go from a dark rosé to something with a bit more lift and weight."
Growden says a new demographic of wine consumers is willing to explore without rules and expectations.
"This is an interesting bracket. I find a lot of chilled reds too simple so we set out to make stuff that is high acid and lower tannin, to a degree, but still has length and depth of flavour and an element of interest."
Danish winemaker Uffe Deichmann also sources fruit from McLaren Vale, where runs his minimal intervention wine brand Poppelvej.
"Glou-glou – or 'vin de soif' as we say in Denmark – has been a thing in Europe, especially northern Europe, for quite a while now," he says. "All the hip restaurants in Copenhagen embrace the style because it pairs really well [with their food] due to the wine's high acidity."
Poppelvej's The Rookie Grenache and the Zoonotic Spillover Mourvedre are the epitome of glou-glou wines. "You can drink light, crisp, fresh wines with low alcohol in the middle of the day – and not necessarily with any food," says Deichmann.
"When you drink bigger, bolder wines you get palate fatigue very quickly. The feeling you have after you finish a glass of lighter red is that you want another glass straight away.
"It's also the perfect drink in warmer climate countries because they benefit a lot from being chilled. They really are the perfect style of wine for a country like Australia."
Three Australian glou-glous to try
Year Wines 2021 Sausage in Bread Red, McLaren Vale, $26
Winemaker Luke Growden nailed this light red. A motley crew of varieties party in the glass; mataro, grenache, graciano and cabernet. Red fruit and punchy sour cherry flavours and crunchy acid drives the palate. Light, bright and plenty of length. A stellar drop – perfect for barbecues. Chill it. 12.3 per cent alcohol. yearwines.com
Konpira Maru 2021 Voltron, Multiregional, $26
Fun and frivolity in a bottle made from shiraz, dolcetto, barbera, gewurztraminer and sangiovese sourced from five different vineyards. Flavours throw shapes all over the dance floor: raspberry lollies, lemon myrtle, a heaving bowl of fresh-picked cherries and zippy energy. One for the Esky. 12.6 per cent alcohol. konpiramaruwinecompany.com
Taschini 2021 Pinot Gris Graciano Sangiovese, Limestone Coast, $30
Pretty much as juicy as wine gets, this chilled red screams personality. It's perky, playful, full of bright fruit flavours and has decent weight and grip. Winemaker Maltilda Innes sourced fruit from Robe and Padthaway and the sangiovese helps fill the palate. An utterly delightful picnic drop. 13.1 per cent alcohol. taschini.com.au