Alphabet of wine blends


It’s time once again to check my email bag for your wine and spirits questions. You can always reach me at [email protected].

What is a GSM wine?

GSM is an acronym for the popular southern Rhône (France)-inspired red wine blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre grapes. The acronym was popularized first in Australia, where the syrah grape is known as shiraz, but is now also widely used on wine labels around the wine world, including by producers in California, Washington and Israel.

GSM tends to be the key constituent blend of France’s famed Côtes du Rhône and Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines even though other grapes varieties are permitted in the blends.

Grenache, also known as garnacha, is typically the lightest of the three grape varieties. It can contribute higher
alcohol to the blend and typically offers characteristics of raspberry, and sometimes candied red fruit. Syrah or shiraz tends to be heavier, more structured and more savory.

Mourvèdre offers intense color and high tannins as well as dark fruits and often tends to be meatier then Syrah, with more herbal and sometimes floral aromas.

Within the GSM trinity, winemakers can make wildly distinctive wines by, in part, varying the percentage of each grape variety used in the final blend. Want a lighter GSM wine? Increase the grenache percentage. Want a more bold and robust wine? Increase the syrah content.

Besides Irish Coffee, what’s a good Irish whiskey-based cocktail?

Consider the Irish Rose cocktail. It is basically an Irish whiskey version of the old Jack Rose cocktail (applejack, lime juice and grenadine), and changed to the Daisy category by being topped off with a little sparkling water. The Irish Rose was introduced by “Honest Jake” Didier (1865-1945), a New York bartender whose pocket bartending guide was popular in the early 20th century. In the fifth edition he included this drink. Here is the version I’ve come to enjoy most.

Irish Rose

2 ounces Irish whiskey, preferably pure pot still (such as Green Spot) or single malt (such as Bushmills 10-Year-Old)
½ ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons raspberry syrup or grenadine (the commercial stuff is fine here)
½ ounce sparkling water


Add all the ingredients, except the sparkling water, to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then top with the sparkling water — this helps it give a little prickle. Makes for a mighty pleasing and
refreshing libation.

What’s good this week?

The GSM question prompts me to recommend two great, but wildly different, wines: Shirah, Geshem (Central Coast, Calif.), 2014 ($45): This is a medium-bodied yet lush and somewhat intense blend of 68 percent grenache, 7 percent syrah, and 25 percent mourvèdre. The name is playful in that Geshem is the three letter Hebrew word for rain — gimmel-shin-mem — and is here an allusion to its GSM blend. This wine is rich and jammy, and practically bursting forth with ripe red and dark berry fruit notes. Drink now and serve slightly chilled.

Kishor Vineyard, Kishor, GSM, 2016 ($28): This is a delicious light-to-medium bodied Israeli blend exhibiting a rich and herbal bouquet of wild dark fruits and a lovely, clean palate of cherry, raspberry, black currant, a little spice, and dollops of dark chocolate. There is also some very subtle but much welcome smoke. Well balanced with good acidity, nicely integrated tannins and a pleasing, refreshing, flesh-craving finish. Fabulous now, and should remain so over the next two to three years. L’chaim!

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here