Ben Thomas tries a magical blend thats sure to please.

A magical blend

11:57:AM 03/05/2013
Ben Thomas

As standalone varieties, grenache, shiraz and mourvedre make good, often great wines. Blend the three together and something quite magical happens: each grape draws on the others’ strengths to make a truly delightful wine, known as GSM.

Grenache and mourvedre in particular may not be as well known as shiraz by many wine drinkers, but a mention of the acronym GSM gets nearly everyone I know nodding in acknowledgement. For many friends, their eyes light up.

Shiraz from Hermitage, rosé made with mourvedre from Bandol in the south of France and grenache from Priorat in Spain are some of the world’s great wines. In Australia, you will find these three grape varieties growing on vines more than 100 years old in McLaren Vale and the Barossa.

The GSM blend has its roots in France’s southern Rhône Valley in and around the iconic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which has produced the world’s most sought-after examples for centuries.

Interestingly, grenache was Australia’s most widely planted wine grape until the 1950s and was regularly blended with its GSM cohorts before being fortified and labelled as port.

As Australia’s palate changed, and we grew to love table wines, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz took over from grenache in popularity. It’s only in the past 20 years that GSM has made its mark locally as a brand.

According to Rosemount Estate winemaker Matt Koch, grenache should always play the leading role in a GSM.

“GSM is obviously grenache, shiraz and mourvedre – it should always be grenache-dominant and highlight the variety,” Koch says. “We’re looking for round, full flavour, with a juiciness and a slipperiness from the low tannin and full flavour of grenache. That’s the main character of the show.”

Grenache grapes are naturally larger than many other red grape varieties. There’s therefore a high ratio of juice to skins, meaning the wine is less tannic (tannins are derived from the grape skins and pips) than many reds.

“It has a tendency to display floral characters and a juiciness that for me is different to shiraz and cabernet,” says Koch. “We tend to harvest it a bit riper (later in the harvest), looking for the juicy characters. Picked early, you get spice and elegance and it’s the balance between those two that you want to highlight – for GSM we’re looking for the spice, roundness and fullness that grenache brings to the blend.”

Depending on what the vintage delivers in terms of flavour in the grenache, the percentage of how much shiraz and mourvedre are included in the GSM blend is decided after the wines have fermented and spent time

to mature.

“Shiraz should always add weight and structure to the wine,” says Koch, who adds that not all styles of shiraz are suitable for a GSM blend.

“Shiraz is a beast; it can produce different flavours depending on the soils and where it is grown. Shiraz from sandy soils, which tends to be more floral, is a good match for grenache. You’re trying to capture flavours that complement each other.

“Grenache is the upfront character and you want the shiraz to come in to the mid and back palate to give it some evenness.

“Mourvedre adds tannin and colour to the blend, plus a savouriness. We add between 5 to 8 per cent to the final blend – a little goes a long way.”

Taste this

Torbreck Cuvee Juveniles 2011

(Barossa Valley) $26; 14.5%

4 / 5

A confession here: I had planned, as usual, to taste this over a couple of days – it was gone in under two hours. It’s such a tremendously drinkable wine. In the Barossa, 2011 was a tough year; Torbreck’s top wines weren’t made and much of its usual fruit went into this. It’s full of complex aromas of meaty, smoky, violets, raspberry, blackberry, tar, graphite and a perfume that carries through onto the palate. It’s silky and lithe, with refreshing acid, powdery tannins and, well, an X-factor throughout.

Food match Braised short ribs

Grant Burge The Holy Trinity 2010

(Barossa Valley) $37; 14.5%

4 / 5

Tasted on Easter Saturday with my wife, daughter (she abstained, of course) and my mother-in-law. It’s a great wine to share and felt appropriate for the day. This has earthy, layered aromas with lovely cherry, blackberry, spice, vanilla and raspberry aromas. Medium-bodied, it has similar flavours, with bright acid and the structure is good and rewarding. Lengthy raspberry, blackberry flavours carry on well after the last sip.

Food match Lamb stuffed with saffron rice

Head Wines Head Red GSM 2012

(Barossa) $23; 14.5%

4 ½ / 5

Grenache, shiraz and mataro from Greenock in the Barossa, from a vineyard planted 100 years ago. Minimal handling in the winery lets the fruit speak for itself – and it has a lot to say. It’s a gorgeous, delicate wine, with perfumed aromas of raspberry, Chinese five spice, plum and cherry (red and dark). There’s a similar vibe and set of elegant flavours in the mouth, plus a delightful structure: bright, almost refreshing acid, a silky texture plus fine, grippy tannins that (in a good way) feel slightly stalky.

Food match Steak hache

Rosemount Estate GSM 2011

(McLaren Vale) $50; 14%

4 / 5

A 66/28/6 split of GSM, and the G is old, bush vine grenache. Floral aromas include raspberry, cherry, rose petals, earth and spice – they’re classic GSM notes with nice complexity. On the palate are more earthy red and black berry characters, with a nice dose of savoury charm – there’s depth but the wine is light on its feet. Bright acid and sandy tannins are nicely composed, while a burst of red berry flavours on the long finish provides a mix of elegance and power.

Food match Rib-eye with Café de Paris butter

Love a bargain?

d’Arenberg The Stump Jump GSM 2011

(McLaren Vale) $11; 14.3%

4 / 5

Made predominantly from grapes grown on old bush vines. Complex and elegant, this is a triumph over adversity for a tough vintage. There’s an earthy complexity to the raspberry, liquorice and dark berry aromas that has an autumnal feel, a perfect fit for this time of year. It has plum, blueberry, blackberry and spice flavours, a slippery mouthfeel, with sandy tannins, and bright acidity carries the wine to a floral finish.

Food match Lamb and apricot tagine

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