Skip to main content

Why Non-Pro Wine Lovers Should Care About GSM

Talk to a wino long enough and you just may hear the GSM acronym. The name refers to a legendary blend out of the Rhône in France, comprised of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.

While the complementary meshing of the three varieties has gone on for far longer, it wasn’t until 1937 that the blend became the official mode of the region. A minimum of 30% G, S, and M must make up at least 70% of the blend by local law. As you might expect, these are the three most common great types in the scenic foothills that overlook the region’s namesake river.

Some grapes just work well together in the bottle. Grenache is the most widely planted in the southern Rhône and tends to make up the lion’s share of the overall blend. It’s fruity and round, an ideal counterpoint to Syrah’s more feral characteristics. Mourvèdre offers color and tannin, as well as some earthy notes. All together, it’s a trio that’s as good as any out there, from the Three Musketeers to TLC.

The Rhône made the blend famous but other areas have followed its lead. In fact, in Australia, the trio is known as SGM, as it tends to be predominately Syrah (or, Shiraz as they call it). American producers are working with these three grapes as well, sometimes to great effect (in Washington state especially). But it’s hard to match the nuance that comes from the ample limestone and other rocky soils native to southern France.

Plus, there’s a certain storybook quality about the French blend, one that really does seem to reflect its jaw-dropping landscape. There are many reasons why the Rhone is one of the most visited wine regions out there, with its boat cruises, vineyard treks, and innumerable tours.

A good Rhône GSM will put into your glass some of that experience. You’re likely to pick up on the lavender and grassy notes, indicative of the countryside. You’ll taste some gaminess, reflective of the rawness of the region. And you’ll feel the seamlessness, something winemakers in the area have banked on with these trusty varieties for hundreds of years.

Many in the American wine industry credit the Rhône and its signature blend for turning them on to wine. Tasting one of these well-assembled wines can make you second-guess your current career path and leave it all in the name of enology. But if you like your current job just fine and just want to taste the iconic category, here are a few bottles to look out for:

Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2017 Rouge

Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2017 Rouge
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This wine is named after the bees that live in the vineyards and a portion of the sales program goes toward continued bee research at UC Davis in California. It’s a lovely sipper, with strawberry, anise, and green herbs, kept nimble on the palate thanks to minimal stainless steel aging.

Domaine des Gravennes 2018 Cotes du Rhône

Image used with permission by copyright holder

A fourth-generation outfit, Gravennes means “stony place,” a reference to the soils that challenge area vines and amplify the flavor of the fruit. It’s an easy-drinker, great on its own but even better alongside some charcuterie.

Vignerons de Caractère 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Roque Colombe

Vignerons de Caractère 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Roque Colombe
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A great find from one of the region’s most famous appellations. Carrying the Chatty-Pape name, it’s certainly more expensive, but you’ll appreciate the depth and finesse at work here.

Domaine Réméjeanne 2017 Chevrefeuille Cotes du Rhône

Domaine Réméjeanne 2017 Chevrefeuille Cotes du Rhône
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This wine mixes up the GSM order a bit, focused primarily on Syrah, with a little Marselan and Carignan to join the Grenache and Mourvèdre. It’s a tasty and organic wine from the reliable importers at Skurnik.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
These fantastic non-alcoholic wines are getting me through Dry January
Cheers to some great NA wines
Glasses of wine lined up

Where zero-proof is concerned, wine has always lagged a bit. Often, the non-alcoholic stuff tastes like little more than grape juice. Meanwhile, there are non-alcoholic beers and great mocktail recipes that do a bang-up job representing their boozy counterparts.

How come? Perhaps it’s the patience and complexity that goes into a good bottle of wine, something hard to mimic in the hooch-free realm. Perhaps it just hasn’t been taken too seriously. Whatever the reason, we are happy to report that the tide is changing.

Read more
Wine 101: Everything you’ve wanted to know about Sangiovese
A no-nonsense sangiovese guide for everyone
Spread of wine, cheese, and grapes

When one thinks of Italy, wine is one of the first images that comes to mind. In addition to the lush, sweeping landscapes, the watery canals twinkling with romantic gondolas, and the heavenly food that is no doubt what the angels themselves feast upon, wine is very much at the top of that list. Apart from the romanticism of wine itself, which automatically groups it into all things Italian, Italian wine is actually nothing short of spectacular.

My personal favorite Italian varietal is Sangiovese. It's the bottle I order at every Italian restaurant I visit, and it's a decision I've never once regretted. This delicious varietal has been part of Italian culture and has quite an interestingly colorful history attached to its name. The direct translation of Sangiovese is "blood of Jove," referring to the Roman god, Jupiter. Legend states that Roman monks named this wine as a tribute to the god, suggesting that this is the wine that flowed through Jupiter's veins. For me, this legend alone is reason enough to love this particular varietal, but it just so happens to be incredibly delicious, even without the cool story.

Read more
Wine 101: Everything you ever wanted to know about Sauvignon Blanc
A no-nonsense sauvignon blanc guide for everyone
White wine in glass swirling

Sauvignon Blanc is a beautifully zesty and incredibly popular white wine that's beloved for its crisp, citrus flavor and bright green herbaceousness. This zippy varietal is refreshingly tart yet balanced with sweeter notes of stone fruit and fresh lemongrass.

If you favor California wines, you may know sauvignon blanc under its alias of fumé blanc, a term coined by renowned California winemaker Robert Mondavi. He selected this name to honor the Pouilly-Fumé wines from France's Loire Valley, which share many delicious similarities with Sauvignon Blanc. While fumé blanc and sauvignon blanc are the same grape variety, fumé blanc is primarily used in California. In fact, Robert Mondavi's fumé blanc is still one of our very favorite bottles of this varietal.

Read more