One of the things that has been sustaining us over these last few months has been excellent wine. When things first started to close down, we feared we were going to get stuck sipping on mediocre bottles from Albert Heijn, but luckily, Glouglou came to the rescue. They've been keeping our spirits high with fantastic, interesting natural wines each week, and we must admit, we can't wait for them to open their doors soon. Because we wanted to transport ourselves to one of the loveliest wine bars in the city, we chatted with owner Paul Witte about the appeal of natural wine, what it's like to run your own shop and so much more. Keep reading to get all the juicy details.
- gloobles: Tell us about how Glouglou was born.
Paul: Over 5 years ago, I was translator, copywriter and (very unsuccesful) novelist. I was a bit bored with all that and wanted to start something with natural wine. Though I love Amsterdam we missed the natural wine vibe as then growing rapidly in Paris and other cities. So I decided to start a common bar where you drink all the natural wine you want and have fine, organic snacks in stead of the regular pinard and ossenworst and oude kaas you get in our bruine kroegen. The rest is history.
gloobles: Natural wine is pretty important for you guys. When were you first introduced? What do you love about natural wine?
Paul: I personally have come a long way with natural wine, starting in the days of Otterman, the first Amsterdam importer of natural wines back in the nineties. In the beginning of this millennium I spend a week in Marseille where a French friend of mine had opened a natural wine bar, La Trinquette. He kind of refreshed my natural wine memories. Every morning I woke up with the taste of and the lust for the wines we drunk the night before. That’s what natural wine does to me, it gives energy in stead of eating it, and I don’t want to sound to eager but I could (and sometimes do) drink it all day long. Of course there is still the alcohol, so I am abstaining from wine three or four days a week, but I love the surprise and the energy of natural wine.
gloobles: So there are lots of things we love about Glouglou, but the building is at the top of our list. Why did you choose this location? Is De Pijp important for Glouglou?
Paul: I heard through the grapevine that the former owner of the (back then) pretty neglected place might want to retire. He was a grumpy old son of a bitch, but he had a good heart. After I courted him for half a year, he agreed to sell it to me, and that was it. De Pijp is my neighbourhood; I live around the corner. I came to live here almost thirty years ago & saw it transform from quite a rough district to the absolute hotspot it is now.
gloobles: It must have been really inspiring to watch it have that kind of Renaissance. Where does the name Glouglou come from?
Paul: Glouglou is an ideophone - a word that sounds like its meaning. It’s what you hear when wine is being poured into a glass. In the natural wine world, it means: don’t fucking analyse & blabla the wine until Doomsday. Drink it & enjoy it.
gloobles: We love that! You're drinking for pleasure, rather than some lofty ideal. A little birdie told us you also sell wine from the tiny shop behind the bar. Is it open for everybody to have a poke around?
Paul: It’s probably the smallest wine shop in the world. First of all, it’s our storage room, but you can go in and get your bottle of wine. Now with Corona & all, we have to be a bit stricter, but yes, we do sell to take away for a healthy fee.
gloobles: Where do you source your wines from? What are you looking for in a wine?
Paul: We have worked with a couple of importers from the very beginning who know the natural wine world inside out. It’s funny to see how every importer has a collection of wines that fits his character. Now there are new importers. I personally look for pure, surprising wines with the glouglou-factor. It needs to be juicy & have good energy.
gloobles: You described exactly the kinds of wines we like to drink. No wonder we love coming to Glouglou! Tell us about the food you serve. How would you describe it?
Paul: It’s simple and it's very good and it’s mostly organic. I like to think we have the best olives & the best cheeses & so on. Of course, what’s best is subjective.
gloobles: That's true, though we certainly wouldn't argue with any of your claims to superiority. If you’re not having wine at Glouglou, where do you like to have a glass in Amsterdam?
Paul: My second favourite place in town is Bar Centraal. That’s the Glouglou-style wine bar/restaurant with delicious food where my friend Auke & I are co-owners. Other favourites are Otto Volante (the new restaurant on the Overtoom), Hotel de Goudfazant & Choux (those two are absolute classics).
gloobles: We're really dying for everyone to open again! Which restaurant in Amsterdam do you think has the best wine list?
Paul: Well, there sure is strong competition between Choux & Bar Centraal.
gloobles: And how about for the day after drinking? Where do you like to go for a hangover breakfast?
Paul: I am a family man: I bide my hangovers at the breakfast table. Fortunately, I am less of night owl nowadays, so hangovers are relatively rare.
gloobles: Fair enough! What’s your favourite wine bar in the world?
Paul: Aux Deux Amis, in Paris, for me is the archetype. The owner was gerant in Chateaubriand and is one of the most charming men I know. The place is extremely unpretentious, and the food is always good. Very Parisian.
gloobles: We're adding that to our list. Alright, just one more question. You’re having a glass of your absolute favourite wine with absolutely anyone in the world. What are you drinking, and who is your drinking companion?
Paul: That’s a very mean question since there are many wines I love and there are many people I love to drink them with. But with a knife to my throat, I would choose a bottle of L’Indolent, a perfect Chenin 2016 of the legendary Chafardon. It’s generous, mineral, full of energy & layered. No matter what, it will make you very happy, like all his wines. But my favourite drinking companion is my wife, and she is a red wine drinker, so we will probably end up with a bottle of Yannick Pelletier or Philip Viret.