Meaningful Wine Letters: GSM


Fancy a bit of GSM to liven up your holiday? Is this your first time? Don’t worry, a couple of Australian reds and a Rhone Ranger will soon get your taste buds into the swing of things.

If you hear a wine snob talking about ‘GSM’, it has nothing to do with ’50 Shades of Grey’, he’s just spouting off about a blend of grapes; Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, the typical southern Rhone Valley trio that’s exciting winemakers across the world.

I was in Western Australia’s beautiful Margaret River and was privileged to spend a couple of hours with two of Australia’s best known winemakers. Perched in their tasting room overlooking the vineyards I remember their total passion for the southern Rhone varieties, “they are perfectly at home in our Mediterranean climate”, they told me.
The well-known Australian winemakers to whom I refer are Murray McHenry and David Hohnen. Their cracking GSM goes under the “3 Amigos” label, (2015, $25). For the mathematically minded, it’s 35% Grenache, 43% Shiraz and 19% Mourvedre (and 3% Marsanne, the white Rhone variety). The sharp eyed Snoother will notice that the back label says that the ‘M’ stands for the Mataro; ‘don’t panic it’s simply another name for Mourvedre.  

Then there’s Australian winemaker Grant Burge’s Holy Trinity 2012 ($35). It is a blend of Grenache (38%), Shiraz (34%) and Mourvedre (28%). Each of the three varieties are hand-picked from old, dry grown bush vines in the baking Barossa Valley, the youngest being about 50 years old, the oldest well over 100 years old.  Each of the three varieties are vinified separately, the final blend being aged in large vats and smaller oak barrels for 18 months, resulting in vibrant blueberry aromas, rich cherry, blackberry plum flavours and a spicy liquorice finish that will have you reaching for another glass. In case you’re wondering, Syrah is called Shiraz in Oz.

I’m a big fan of Cotes du Rhone reds as they offer good value the world over and rarely let you down. Guigal is arguably the most famous producer in the Rhône Valley so you’re in safe hands with their Cotes du Rhone rouge, (2014, $20). Founded by Étienne Guigal in Ampuis in 1946, his son Marcel has played an important part in the region’s resurgence over the last few decades. Marcel’s son Philippe, the third generation of Guigal winemakers, continues the family’s proud traditions. Although you’ll struggle to find the title ‘GSM’ on a southern Rhone Valley label, Guigal’s Cotes du Rhone is a ‘GSM’ as it has a small percentage of Mourvedre in the blend “to add a little complexity to the Grenache and Syrah”. This medium to full bodied red with its crisp, blackberry plum and pepper spice overtones will also reward a few years in the cellar but, that said, it’s also drinking well tonight!

How about comparing Grant Burge’s full blooded Barossa Valley GSM, McHenry Hohnen’s  ‘restrained New World’ Margaret River GSM and Guigal’s traditional Cotes du Rhone with friends this weekend. All the wines are completely different, all completely delicious. Who can’t resist a bit of GSM?

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