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Blog #3: GSM wines- are you a Rhone Ranger?

Do you love the smell of bacon? Then a GSM wine is for you and you may be a Rhone Ranger!

When Chef Jim and I were in our thirties (yes, I can remember some of those days), we enjoyed red wine but rarely ventured away from the traditional varietals of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. That was until Pastor Kern, aka “PK”, entered our lives. Our pastor was quite a wine enthusiast, having a 300-bottle collection and loved sharing his wine. Pastor Kern, in turn, introduced us to a wine distributor named Oliver, a Frenchman with a wonderful accent that mesmerized me when he spoke of French wine. Thus began our introduction to the world of GSMs. The acronym “GSM” is shorthand for a red wine blended from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. GSM wines are known for their bright fruit, extroverted aromas of ripe fruit, dried sage and herbs, and a grippy, pepper-and-herb finish that carries through in the wines’ aroma.

If you have a pre-conceived notion that blends are somehow inferior to single grape wines, please consider this: the best chefs create a dish by “blending” ingredients in such a way to create a beautiful dish. In the same manner, a winemaker creates a beautiful blend by understanding what each variety brings to the party and creates a wine that optimizes the ratios to create a beautiful wine.

The term “GSM” is attributed to Australian winemakers, but it is believed that the origin of the blend was from Spain where they call Grenache “Garnacha” and Mourvèdre “Monastrell”. However, it is in France’s Southern Rhone along the Rhône River that this wine blend has come into its own at the end of the 18th century. Within the southern Rhone, there are several subregions, the most famous being Chateauneuf-du-Pape (pronounced Chat - o – nuff– du – pop). All three varietals appeared in the region by the end of the 18th century. And here is Belinda's insider’s secret: GSMs from the sub-region Gigondas, right next door to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, can be just as tasty and half the price!

The French GSMs tend to be quite full-bodied and earthy. Grenache delivers delicate red-fruit notes of raspberry and strawberry, while Syrah brings blackberry, pepper, structure and spice. Mourvèdre grounds the blend with plum and savory notes of spices, leather, smoke, tobacco, and dried herbs.

But here is why I love GSM: the savory note I most enjoy is the aroma of bacon fat and these blends often bring that to the party!

In addition to GSMs from France, Spain, and Australia, America’s Paso Robles has proved a worthy landscape for Rhône varieties.

I have carried Amadieu Domaine Grand Romane Gigondas Vieilles Vignes, 2019. This is a powerful blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah. The wine has an intense core of blackberries, sunbaked plums and touch of wild mint coats the palate, long, dark-fruited finish, gritty tannins and clove. I plan to carry this wine or one very similar to it on the new flights in January. Stay tuned!