GSM: Unravelling Côtes du Rhône style wine blends
Updated: Feb 17
Côtes du Rhône blends have been revered as one of the classic French Southern Rhône wines for decades. France’s original region has had a love affair with Grenache since the Renaissance.
Mourvèdre and Syrah play prominent roles in this blended red wine. In fact, we’re going to show you how their signature aromas can be combined with Grenache to create a unique Australian version of the French classic wine which has become more commonly known as “GSM”.
Rhône-style wines were relatively rare across Australia. With global exposure increasingly exposing Australian wine drinkers to different varieties and styles of wines, the times have since changed.
The Grenache or Garnacha varietal produces delicate fruit-forward red wines with primary flavours of strawberry, red plum, red cherry and sometimes spice like white pepper and liquorice. This black grape needs a warm climate to ripen successfully. With thin skins, high sugar levels, low acidity and red-fruit flavours, Grenache is also commonly used to make rosé wines using the short maceration method.
Dating back to the late 1800s, Grenache is one of the original varieties planted in warm South Australian vineyard sites especially in McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley. The vines produce outstanding red-fruit concentrated wines with spice flavours and long ageing potential. This light coloured wine varietal is seeing significant resurgence in popularity as the backbone of the popular GSM blend.
Shiraz adds colour, black-fruit flavours, spice, structure and tannins to the Rhône style blend. In France where it is known as Syrah, these small grapes yield fresh black fruit flavours but in warmer climates like Australia where it is known as Shiraz, the fruit yields ripe flavours of cooked blackberries, black cherries, liquorice, black pepper and spice flavours from oak. Its thick black skin brings forth wines of rich colour and tannins while its high acidity brings structure and body.
Monastrell originated in Spain, popularized in France as Mourvedre and is known as Mataro in Australian wine blends. This varietal adds firm tannins, floral aromas and savoury characteristics to GSM. Mataro are small black grapes that produce deeply coloured red to purple wines with a more persistent finish than that of Shiraz.
When blended together, these three grapes contribute different characteristics that together create a wine with explosive fruit flavours.It’s the classic Rhône blend, but with a twist and bigger, bolder Australian character.
McHenry Hohnen Hazel’s Vineyard GSM
If you want to know what Australian GSM is all about. This $48.30 bottle is a great start.
McHenry Hohnen Margaret River-styled Grenache Syrah Mataro is a 85% Grenache dominant wine with 10% Syrah and 5% Mataro. This red brings aromas of mulberry and cherry confection over notes of fragrant violets and myrtle pepper. The palate is initially juicy and sweet, combining crunchy red plums and red liquorice from the Grenache, with Syrah and Mataro adding structure, spice and savouriness. The finish is persistent with layers of cocoa, coffee liqueur and a frame of firm but fine tannins. A real breakthrough wine that got its excellent 96 points from Ray Jordan.