When I first started getting serious about wine (I’m about to carbon-date myself, but that was over 20 years ago), I stumbled across a GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mouvèdre) blend from Rosemount Estate in Australia. I was convinced this was the Holy Grail of all wine blends. I bought every bottle I could get my hands on, several vintages in a row. I was in love . . . and I considered monograming all of my towels with GSM.
I was, of course, a little green back in my salad days, and I hadn’t yet figured out that Rosemount wasn’t the only winery making this magical, Rhône-style blend. Today, I know there are choices . . . a globe full of choices.
I started writing this blog to bolster my own wine education . . . one bottle at a time. That’s one of my favorite things about wine — every bottle is an opportunity to learn something. So when Bacchus presents me with the chance to participate in a live wine tasting on Twitter, I do it. A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a live tasting on Twitter with Château Paul Mas in Languedoc, France. Along with an assortment of knowledgeable and curious wine bloggers, the tasting featured Château Paul Mas winemaker, Guillaume Borrot, and Washington Wine Academy Wine & Spirits Educator, Tom Finigan. We tasted our way through three Château Paul Mas GSM blends — it was a terrific hands-on learning experience.
The traditional home of GSM blends is the Côtes du Rhône region of southern France. But the Rhône doesn’t have a monopoly on GSM. GSM blends can be found in South Australia, the Priorat region of Spain, Washington State and Central California, as well.
Photo Credit: Wine Folly
But hold the vine — now we get to add another Rhône flag to the map — Château Paul Mas is located in the Languedoc region of France (Rhône’s neighbor to the southwest). The Mas Family has been making wine in France for over 100 years. Historical perspective: During both World Wars, “the ration of French wine given daily to French soldiers usually came from [Languedoc].” (Karen MacNeil, The Wine Bible). Perhaps French soldiers drank a little Château Paul Mas with their field rations? During the war, Languedoc was part of Vichy (unoccupied) France. When the Nazis decided to occupy Vichy France, Languedoc became a pocket of fierce French resistance. The genealogist in me would love to know more about Château Paul Mas during that time.
Getting back on track . . .
The GSM blend is nature and nurture in a bottle. If you break-down a GSM blend to it’s basic elements, you have Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre. Where it gets interesting is the almost infinite stylistic options available to the winemaker. A winemaker can bend a GSM blend in almost any direction. Add to that the different expressions of terroir and you’ve got a glass of wine that never gets old.
Here are some basic characteristics for each grape (these vary depending on who you ask) and what they can potentially bring to the GSM blending table:
Grenache (aka Garnacha): Cinnamon, raspberry, strawberry, licorice. Adds fruit and acidity. Higher in alcohol.
Syrah (aka Shiraz): Blueberry, blackberry, plum, black olive. Adds color, spice, minerals, and tannin.
Mouvedre (aka Monastrell): Blackberry, pomegranate, pepper, violets, clove, smoke. Adds tannins and structure.
We tasted three different Château Paul Mas GSM wines. When I went back and reviewed my tasting notes, I was pretty pleased with myself that I had managed to whittle out a few of the key characteristics for each singular grape. [Pats self on back].
I love the heron on the Château Paul Mas wine label. Vinus the Heron is a local celebrity in Languedoc. According to local lore, Vinus took up residence on the Hérault River banks in Languedoc because he preferred to eat grapes rather than fish. He might be the world’s only vegan heron.
Château Paul Mas Clos Des Mûres 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/88
83% Syrah, 12% Grenache and 5% Mouvèdre. Some definite funk on the nose. But I like a funky nose. A lighter mouthfeel than the Moulinas, flavors are blackberries and blueberries. Definitely some violet notes, too. The flavors lose their grip a bit on the finish, but I found some cinnamon lingering in my glass. 14.5% ABV.
Château Paul Max Clos de Savignac 2011 ⭐⭐⭐⭐/90
50% Mouvedre, 30% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Garnet, bordering on eggplant in color. Funkytown nose! Oh wow, the earthy goodness in this bottle of wine! Loaded with flavors of coffee, leather and tobacco. Beautifully balanced with grippy tannins. Impressive finish. 14.5% ABV.
Château Paul Mas Clos du Moulinas Pezenas 2011 ⭐⭐⭐/89
55% Syrah and 45% Grenache (I guess technically, this is a mélange a deux). Deep ruby color. The nose is . . . OMG . . . dittos! Surely, you remember dittos. Well, if you’re a certain age, you remember dittos — and their glorious smell! A bit jammy up front, with massive flavors of blackberry and plum. Lovely balance. Dawdling finish, with a transition to tobacco and chocolate on the back end. 14.5% ABV.
All three Château Paul Mas wines were excellent, finely crafted wines. But the true wow factor with these wines is this: They’re all under $25USD. That’s a rare and slightly shocking price point for wines of this quality. There’s no trick to finding a $50 GSM that’ll knock your socks off. But finding one (or three) for half that price? Magic.
When I discovered GSM over 20 years ago, I was in love with one bottle of wine. Twenty years hence, I’m in love with an ever growing world of GSM.