April 24, 2019 BY

We have written on a number of occasions about wine blends and the virtues of combining different grape varieties in a single wine to produce a more complete, distinctive drink.

In this article we will focus on what is now a classic Australian red blend, GSM.

We must admit to being a little bemused by the lack of demand for GSM wines on the Surf Coast, despite them selling well in other markets. We believe they represent some of the best value wines going around and are a “go to” no brainer, especially with food.

It’s simple really, Grenach, Shiraz, Mouvèdre, blended together in complementary percentages. Or is it Garnacha, Syrah, Mataro? Or maybe SGM, Shiraz, Grenache, Mouvédre?

These varieties have various names, depending on the country of origin, and the percentages used in the blend differs (The first named grape should be the dominant grape, volume-wise, in the blend); could this be part of the problem? Perhaps confusion in the buying public may lead to safe decision making, “I’ll go with the Shiraz, I know what I am getting”. This would be a shame, as we think once tried most people with return for more.

So why such a blend? The wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and the Rhone Valley have long been admired in Australia and the three varieties feature prominently there.

They also adapted well to our conditions, Grenache in particular liking warmer wine grape-growing areas. The percentages in the blend depend on climate, soil, ripeness of the crop and the preferences of the winemaker.

Grenache is generally the lightest in character of the three grapes, producing a pale juice with berry characters and a bit of spice. It contributes alcohol and fruitiness without strong tannins. Shiraz contributes full-bodied flavours of black fruits and pepper. It adds colour, backbone and tannins and balance.

Mourvèdre contributes elegance, structure and acidity, producing flavours of plum, game and (perhaps) a hint of tobacco. Roll them together and you have a very mouth-filling, satisfying drink without the aggressiveness of some straight varietals.

Another issue people may have is that, like straight Grenache varietals, the blend can be of various weights. Some are quite light, well suited to drinking in warmer climates, but most are fuller-bodied. If you are unsure a wine is to your preference in this spectrum, please ask. One thing you can be confident with, however, is the house style of the various makers; they aim for consistency vintage-tovintage, adjusting the percentages in the blend to the growing conditions of a particular year.

Mont Redon Lirac 2016 – $45
2016 was a stunning vintage in the Southern Rhone for wines that are so effortless and enjoyable straight off the bat. They show the sunny ripeness typical of the Southern Rhone, with a healthy dose of “garrigue” (a term to describe the array of plants that grow on the Mediterranean coast such as rosemary, thyme and lavender), an aroma and flavour that works so uniquely well in these wines. The tannins are ripe and well-integrated even at this early stage, enough acidity was retained such that they are bold, complex and vibrant.

Lirac is a small appelatio of the Southern Rhone, in a similar vein to more well-known designated appellations such as Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas. Appelations like Lirac can offer excellent value in great years such as 2016 when compared to Chateauneuf du Pape. The Mont Redon showed all the traits of the vintage described above and is well worth seeking out whether you are new to the Southern Rhone or already well versed in the region.