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Blind Tasting of GSM from Around the World

2009 May 28

Last night, we hosted a tasting of Southern Rhône style blends from everywhere. All these wines were from different vintage years, but all are currently available. The only common theme is they were primarily GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blends. I picked these wines specifically because Grenache was the highest percentage varietal in all of them. Two were California, two were Australian, two were Washington and one French. Here’s how the group ranked them along my notes, tasting notes and scores from critics and a current price.

  1. 2005 McCrea Sirocco, Washington State – 45% Grenache, 35% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah, 5% Counoise.
    2005 McCrea SiroccoThoroughly purple in color the very fragrant aromas of berry, herbs and dry leaves yields to fruity flavors of plum, blueberry and ripe cherry. Supple tannins and a medium finish.
    IWC:87 $31
  2. 2007 Cline Cashmere, California – 39% Grenache, 38% Syrah and 23% Mourvèdre.
    2007 Cline CashmereClear purple color with blueberry aromas and a hint of barnyard and sweat socks. Fruity and bit more austere than the others with flavors of black fruits, black olive and herbs. Silky tannins and elegant structure with a medium finish.

    “Savory grape and wild berry flavors are trim, spicy, medium-bodied and complex, if on a modest scale. Drink now. 5,800 cases made.” ~(WS-JL)
    WS:85 $16

  3. 2005 Domaine Bois De Boursan, Cuvée des Félix, Chateauneuf-du-Pape – 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 5% other varietals.
    2005 Domaine Bois De Boursan, Cuvée des Félix

    The Cuvée des Félix represents the top 10% of the production from Jean and Jean-Paul Versino from 40-80 year old vines. It has a dark garnet color with complex developing aromas of red licorice, blueberry, smoked meat and violets. Lots of dusty black fruits, tobacco and herbs on the palate. Great balance and a medium-long finish. I guessed it was French just by its classic fragrant nose. It was my number 1.
    “Very solid. This is packed with black currant and fig paste notes pushed by dark, loamy tannins, with notes of grilled herb, iron, black olive, tobacco and mineral. The finish is long and structured. Best from 2009 through 2022. Tasted twice, with consistent notes.”~(WS)
    IWC:92+, WS:94 $51

  4. 2005 Oxford Landing GSM, South Australia – 56% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 11% Mourvèdre.
    2005 Oxford Landing GSM

    Garnet in color with bright aromas of plum, cherry and licorice. Dominate berry flavors with hints of spice. Tannins? What tannins.
    “The 2005 GSM possesses herbal, peppery, red cherry, spice and earthy notes, light tannin, and ripe, round fruit. Drink it over the next 12-18 months.”~(RP)
    RP:87 $7

  5. 2003 Rosemount GSM, McLaren Vale – 63% Grenache, 28% Syrah, 9% Mourvèdre.
    2003 Rosemount GSM

    Showing some signs of age in the brick red color, closed but eventually reveal herbs and dry leaves. Palate of blackberry and dark cherry. This wine is tightly knit and isn’t giving up much. May need more time in the decanter. It was my last place wine.
    “Bright, focused and impressively long and detailed. Offers blueberry, cream and subtle spice aromas and flavors on a frame that’s fleshed out with fine tannins, which let the finish open up gracefully. Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Best from 2008 through 2013. 6,000 cases imported.”~(WS-HS)
    WS:91 Top 100 of 2007, Rank: 60 $29

  6. 2004 Pax Cuvée Moriah, Sonoma County – 73% Grenache, 14% Mourvèdre, 8% Syrah, 4% Counoise and 1% Roussanne.
    2004 Pax Cuvée Moriah

    Dark garnet color and a bouquet of smoked meat, herbs, figs and raisins. Hints of brett. Muscular and layered with concentrated flavors of black fruits, plum and olives, it has firm tannins and and medium-long finish.
    “… aromas of garrigue, tapenade, kirsch liqueur, and blackberries. A full-throttle, California-styled southern Rhône-like cuvée … big, meaty, juicy…” ~(RP)
    RP:94 $65

  7. 2005 Brian Carter Cellars Byzance, Columbia Valley – 57% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 21% Mourvèdre
    2005 Brian Carter Cellars ByzanceGarnet in color with aromas of herbs, berry, smoke and caramel. On the palate, I get dusty blueberry and smokey black fruits. Medium finish with rounded tannins.
    “Good full red. Aromatically complex nose combines dark raspberry, milk chocolate, licorice and garrigue Juicy and perfumed in the mouth but not at all overly sweet despite a slightly liqueur-like quality to the berry fruit. Finishes with fine tannins and a hint of unabsorbed acidity.”~(IWC-ST)
    IWC:88, RP:87 $29

The wines were great. The company was wonderful. And the entire evening was the exact opposite of Boys Night. The fact that I didn’t have to rush around before everyone arrived and could relax when they were all here made last night more fun than most of the events I’ve hosted recently. It really helped to have Sheri helping me and I think things just don’t go as smoothly without her. Makes me appreciate my wife even more.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. May 29, 2009

    Great stuff. Appreciate the detailed tasting notes.

    Question about Bois de Boursan, as it is close to my heart: 2005 was quite a ripe vintage, but BdB adheres to bigger, older oak and more classically traditional techniques. Not that I prefer labels, but does this wine fall into what you would call an “old-school CdP?” Or is getting bigger, richer, chewier?

  2. Eric Hwang permalink*
    May 29, 2009

    Hi Evan,

    First, let me say thanks for visiting. As far as the Bois de Boursan goes, it was my personal top pick of the evening and I think I may go back to my supplier and get a couple more bottles. The BdB has a uniquely French style that, for me, is evident in the complexity of the aromas. The telltale smoked meat and floral aromas are what I truely enjoy in a CdP. However, this wine is not as traditional as a Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraphe or even a Clos Saint Jean. BdB even says on their web site that the Cuvée des Félix is supposed to be more substantial than their “Traditional” CdP. I guess that’s why the Félix costs more. There is a certain richness and weight on the palate that definitely shouts new-world and reminds me more of a Central California Rhône-style wine. It may be just this particular vintage, but it seems much more fruit forward than what I remember of a CdP. Of course that may improve with age and I think the qualities we’re calling into question right now will be what makes this vintage age-worthy. That’s just my opinion though and only time will tell.

  3. May 29, 2009

    Very interesting. I recently enjoyed a ’99 BdB (regular bottling) and it was gorgeously, classically CdP. Grilled meat, herbs, strong tinge of minerality and dark fruit. Versino is a fascinating guy who is pragmatic enough to offer various styles, even if he prefers the old-school. You’ve certainly piqued my interest with this one — and I must say, even though you describe it as offering more new-world character, it seems to have retained many of the tell-tale CdP qualities as well, which I appreciate. (I don’t intend to put words in your mouth, but it doesn’t seem to be an oak bomb or a homogenous “big red.”)


  4. Eric Hwang permalink*
    May 29, 2009

    I must admit that I’ve had less Châteauneuf-du-Pape than I could hope for, so my basis for comparison is an ’89 Beaucastel. It definitely skewed my tastes for every CdP that followed. (It’s great to have friends with good taste in wine and the budget to match.)

    The great thing about wine is that there’s a style out there that appeals to just about every taste. The fun is in the search. Cheers!

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