Over the past twenty years the phrase GSM has become
quite popular among serious wine lovers. Sommeliers are using the term to discuss their wine list, and tasting room personnel in California’s Central Coast wineries
toss it to and fro like it was commonplace. For those of you who are coming on our
September trip to the Rhone Valley and don’t know the term, you need to know
it. GSM is code for the immensely popular
Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
The Rhone Valley is the second largest wine growing region in France. GSM is dominant throughout both of its two sub regions, the northern & southern Rhone. Here’s a recap of these three varieties that comprise GSM.
One of the most versatile red grapes in the world, Grenache thrives in hot, dry climates such as the Rhone Valley, Spain (where it is named Garnacha), and California. Grenache produces wines that can range from light to full-bodied; from simple inexpensive wines that offer immediate satisfaction to complex ones that are cellar worthy and do not come cheaply. Grenache is all about fruit…strawberries, blackberries, raspberries. That being said, the variety’s earth notes can include an interesting layering of spices such as allspice, cinnamon or pepper, as well as subtle nuances of floral notes.
Grenache is the superstar grape in the wines of the southern Rhone. Chateauneuf du Pape, for example, is typically a blend of 75% Grenache. In second and third place in the south’s blend are Sryah and Mourvedre, respectively.
Wine-Knows visit the famous hill of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone
Unlike the southern Rhone where Grenache rules, Syrah is
King in the Northern Rhone dominating the blend in famous wines such as
Hermitage and Cote-Rotie. In fact, DNA
testing shows the Syrah grape is indigenous to the Rhone Valley.
Syrah, in contrast to Grenache, contributes not only firm tannins that make for powerfully flavored and full bodied wines, but Syrah’s very dark inky color adds deep hues to these northern Rhones. Similar to Grenache, on the other hand, the Syrah grape yields rich fruit flavors in the form of black cherry, blackberry and plum. Syrah also provides a beguiling spice profile of cloves, licorice, white or black pepper, and even chocolate.
The “M” part of GSM tends to produce deeply-colored
and tannic wines that can be high in alcohol.
Mourvedre is mainly used for blending in both the northern &
southern Rhone and is rarely vinified as a varietal except in the appellation
of Bandol (on the Mediterranean) where the cooling maritime influence can
change it into a rockstar. Mourvedre
offers earth flavors such as leather, as well as dark fruit flavors. There is often even a patina of chocolate.
If you’re joining the Wine-Knows' harvest tour this
September in France you’ll have several opportunities to sample GSM in the
famous southern Rhone appellation of Chateauneuf du Pape, as well as Hermitage
and Cote Rotie of the northern Rhone. We
have remaining 1-2 spaces still available for a lucky GSM lover. But, since we’ll also be visiting Burgundy and
Champagne on this same trip, Pinot Noir & bubble lovers are also welcomed!