How Siobhan McLoughlin Made Austin Go Glou Glou for Natural Wine
The wine club and delivery service encourages members to explore without the intimidation of the traditional wine industry
Siobhan McLoughlin knows a thing or two about taste. The 26-year-old is the founder of Glou Glou Girls, a natural wine club and delivery service that partners exclusively with small production vineyards.
The business is first of its kind and delivers hand-selected bottles anywhere within Travis County. The subscription service has membership options of three or six bottles per month, but if you’re just looking to dip your toes into the wine world, you can pause deliveries as you please.
Glou-glou is French for “glug glug.” A wine that is glou-glou is fresh, easy-drinking and, as McLoughlin tells me, the perfect starting point for natural wine newbies. Glou Glou Girls hopes to bring living wine to every Austinite. Yes, living wine.
If you care about what you eat, you should care about what you drink. While there is no exact definition, natural wine is derived from grapes harvested organically, where growers refrain from using any pesticides or insecticides. Traditionally, the grapes are transformed into wine without any additives or filtration, giving the wine its signature cloudy look. In other words, it’s wine with a story, without the exaggerations. It’s healthier for the environment and for the body. The result is living microbiology inside a bottle and, yes, wine that is alive.
“I don’t think you need a certain level of knowledge to be able to drink what you enjoy,” says McLoughlin.
This is the essence of Glou Glou Girls. In an industry known for obsessing over the details, McLoughlin desires to keep things light and whimsical. On Instagram, you’ll see wine glasses held by perfectly manicured hands against the backdrop of a cloudless sky. Included in every order is a wine zine (penned by McLoughlin) with jargon-free tasting notes that explain wine in a way that is entertaining, not intimidating. In one of her zines, McLoughlin asks club members, “Would you want a wine that is Sandy from Grease pre- or post-makeover?” In the age of #winetok these out-of-the-box explanations do more than just make information more accessible, they give character to the wine and make the experience more personal for the drinker.
When McLoughlin first began working with wine, she noticed firsthand the disconnect between customer and bottle as complicated wine terminology entered the conversation. Language has the power to make us feel uncomfortable and small, and that’s why Glou Glou Girls aims to make wine conversations more approachable.
“So many of my best friends in the club feel like from reading the zine or my newsletter that they are learning a lot more about wine and learning a lot more about themselves,” says McLoughlin. “They are better able to match themselves with their bottles at restaurants and bottle shops and sort of have that feeling of empowerment when it comes to ordering wine as opposed to that fear.”
While Glou Glou Girls is McLoughlin’s love letter to Austin, her wine story begins elsewhere. Born to European parents, McLoughlin’s early years were spent hopping around Europe, where, as a child, she referred to Champagne as “spicy water.”The family then moved to the U.S., settling in Richmond, Virginia. McLoughlin came of age in the cocktail scene through bartending at The Alley Light, a speakeasy in Charlottesville where she worked all through college. There, McLoughlin fine-tuned her knowledge of taste and the balancing of flavors.
“We had something called the dealer’s choice,” she explains. “Instead of convincing someone to get something on the menu, they tell you what they like, and you make a cocktail for them based on that.”
It was this process of helping someone navigate murky waters that McLoughlin loved so much.
“I think whatever someone is drinking should be about them.”
McLoughlin later worked in a wine shop and then another bar in Richmond, but when the pandemic shut the service industry down, she lost her job. Around this time, she started sourcing alcohol for co-workers and friends who were quarantined and wanted to drink, but still wanted to be health conscious. This led her to natural wine.
“I can trace where all the grapes were grown, exactly who’s making them, how big the land was, how the weather was that year, and really get a sense of place, which was important to me during the pandemic.” McLoughlin says.
From there, she created a wine-focused Instagram account, before moving into custom wine buying. Things were starting to come together again, but on the inside, feelings of stagnation loomed within McLoughlin.
“I wanted to do something that I could really call my own.”
On a whim, she signed a six-month sublease she found on Instagram, and without any prior research and not having visited the city, McLoughlin packed up her car and traveled down to Austin. When she arrived, it was love at first sight. By this point, Glou Glou Girls was still a website in production, but once she settled in Austin, McLoughlin hit the ground running, applying for her TABC license and by March of 2021, Glou Glou Girls had arrived.
“People here get it and because we’re all seeking community in so many different ways, whether that’s through music or Zilker or running or fitness,” says McLoughlin. “I feel like this is something people really feel like they’re a part of.”
Although McLoughlin moved here without knowing anyone, it didn’t take her long to find her community. She was welcomed with open arms into the Austin wine scene and even became close friends with some of her wine club members.
“My friends still let me pick out the wine whenever we go out; they are really adventurous and I love that.” McLoughlin lights up telling me about the evolving taste buds of her friend group. Most notable is her friend Sara, who exclusively drank Chenin Blanc when they first met, but now enjoys a chilled red. It’s moments like these, when we graduate from one wine to another, that makes us feel as if we’re entering a new era of ourselves; a new chapter of flavor. It’s clear McLoughlin and Glou Glou Girls is the catalyst for this, but she’s not trying to be the driver. Instead, just a pal in the passenger seat offering to steer the wheel if needed.
It’s been over a year since the launch of Glou Glou Girls. Although the wine club has seen steady growth, McLoughlin doesn’t plan to scale up the business anytime soon.
“I love that it’s not in New York or LA. It’s a fun Austin thing. If you’re in Glou Glou Girls you’ve probably met me or hung out with me or we follow each other on Instagram. I love that about it. It feels very transparent,” McLoughlin tells me on a scorching afternoon in July.
We’re sitting down at The Meteor. This afternoon, she’s traded a glass of wine for a lime-and-salt-flavored non-alcoholic aperitif. Around us, people are typing away on laptops, “working from home” next to lipstick-stained glasses of prosecco. It’s true that the natural wine world has seen immense growth in the past few years, but somehow it remains niche and community-driven — much like the city of Austin — and it’s this spirit that McLoughlin wants to keep at the heart of Glou Glou Girls.
It’s no wonder Glou Glou Girls hits home for the next generation of Austin drinkers. The feminine aesthetic, tossed with information as digestible as the wine itself, sprinkled with chic western vibes, meets the moment in a way that hasn’t been done before. In an industry dominated by men, Glou Glou Girls is a gateway for the younger generation of women to learn and take the shame out of enjoying what they like. “Girls” is in the business name for a reason — McLoughlin wants people to feel like they can incorporate it into their identity, and while the name embraces femininity, the founder is keen on keeping the brand inclusive for all.
“My boyfriend always says ‘I’m a Glou Glou Guy!’ and I’m like, no, you’re a Glou Glou Girl.”