Written by Lara Cowan

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February 03, 2011

“OMG – not another acronym! BTW, did I tell you we’re going to talk about a GSM in this issue?”

If you guessed “OMG” as “oh my gosh” and “BTW” meant “by the way”, then you can take a guess
at what “GSM” stands for! I’m talking wines now; wines that are ‘Good’...’Stylish’...and oh-so-‘Mmm-mouth-wateringly’ fantastic!

Now that you’re really wondering what on earth I’m talking about...well, let’s get to it.

GSMs are wines that are blends of 3 Southern Rhône varietals, namely Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre.
Australia was the country that coined the term ‘GSM’ for these blends, which proved to be a successful product branding strategy. Until around the 1970’s the wine world recognized Australia for it sweet and fortified wines. Australian winemakers struggled with dry wine production. However, with the dawn of science and technology in oenology, Australia blossomed. The wine world, which was so used to being disappointed by Australian dry wines still, did not pay much attention to the new wines out of that country. This did not dampen the spirit of the Aussie winemakers! They were the “New World” and they were surging forth. They employed competitive pricing and marketing tools like colourful labels and
product branding to grab the attention of the consumer.

One such attempt was the coining of these GSM wines, which intrigued the world to pick up these bottles and give it a try. And boy! Was it ever worth that try! Australian winemakers found considerable
success with these blends. But here’s the interesting thing... GSM blending wasn’t an Australian creation! Oh no, siree! These blends were inspired by French winemakers of Southern Rhône.

So, why was Southern Rhône the inspiration of choice for Australian winemakers?
Take these facts into consideration:

  • The Australian winemakers could not get the world to consider their dry wines, because it was believed that ‘good’ wines mainly came from France. So the wines to beat became French wines, if Australia was to get anyone’s respectable consideration.
  • One of the problems the Australians could not overcome, was their weather. The heat produced berries that were cooked and jammy, resulting in high alcohol levels and wines that lacked the complexity and finesse most French wines displayed. So rather than fighting their ‘terroir’, the Australians decided to work with it. They turned to regions in France that perhaps shared some similarities. Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, Champagne or Alsace all had much cooler climates. However, the temperature in Southern Rhône did climb heights! So, this was certainly a region to model their wines upon.
  • So what were Southern Rhône wines? One cannot think of that region without citing Chateauneuf-du-Pape. These full bodied, earthy, spicy rich wines are well received worldwide.
These wines  allow up to 13 different Rhône varietals to be blended in.  Its neighbouring appellations of Gigondas and Vacqueras also produce such high quality wines with massive structure, grippy tannins, strong acidity and...well, just superlative! These wines are primarily blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre

...and viola! The Australian GSM was born!
It is interesting to understand what makes these blends such fabulous wines. It really is the sum of its parts. Let’s examine what its varietals contribute to the success of the wine:
Grenache :  It has the least body of the three grapes, but its pale juice offers berry notes and spiciness.
Its high sugar levels lift the alcoholic profile of the blend. It tends to lack acid, tannins and colour, but that works well in the GSM blends because the other two grape varietals bring in plenty of that!

Syrah : The Australians call it Shiraz. This grape offers a smooth tannic structure, deep colour with a generous mid-palate and notes of blueberry, spice and chocolate. Depending on where they are grown, they can also offer aromas of leather and espresso. Shiraz, or Syrahs are known to be age-worthy.

Mouvèdre : Tall, dark and handsome! Mouvèdres are known to make inky dark and tannic wines. As for flavours, you can pick gamey notes on the nose as well as the palate.

So to sum up, Grenache offers the wine its fruitiness while softening and giving it finesse. Syrah, builds the main profile of the wine with a lush bouquet of aromas and flavours, acidity and body. Mouvèdre, gives the wine structure. Its tannic component holds the concentrated aromas and flavours together while the ageing capacity of Syrah works its magic.

What does a GSM blend equate to on your palate? Remember this mantra...
  • Good (oooh really, truly, honestly...good!)
  • Stylish, and
  • Mmm, mouth-watering...all the way!
Now, here’s an interesting little bit of well known wine gossip for you. The GSM blends did not stop with the Australians. Guess what, it caught on with other New World wine producing regions too, most famously in California. In the 1980’s, winemakers in Central California noticed similarities in their terroir and that of Southern Rhône. They also noticed that their soil had high pH levels like that in Rhône, which regulated the acidity level of the grapes and certainly the overall complexity of the resulting wines. Syrah was already growing well in that region, so they tried other Rhône varietals like Grenache, Mouvèdre and Viognier...and it worked! California took on the challenge to produce top quality Rhône style blends and was hugely successful. So much so, that Château de Beaucastel from Rhône, combined efforts with the Perrin family of winemakers in California to create ‘Tablas Creek’.

So, do the New World versions of Southern Rhône’s wines compare to their inspiration at all? Oh yes!
Most certainly. These GSM blends of the New World, may have mirrored the blends, but the style of the wine is distinctly their own. It is like cousins of the same family; they share a common name perhaps, similar physical features, but have their own distinct presence and identity!

...well darlin’s, now that I’ve sold you on the wine, let’s get to the food to pair these luscious blends with. Think dark, meaty, roasted, grilled, earthy fare.  Aged, hard cheeses will also stand up well to these wines. Remember, in food and wine pairing, you don’t have to serve up a whole meal with dishes that match your wine. Think style...like these wines. Accessorize. What I mean is that you can pick on some key ingredient of your meal to match or balance your wine. For example, Grenache loves barbecued meats and sausages. Syrahs can handle the same, plus hard cheeses, roasted lamb and even
heavy, strong flavoured, oily fish, such as tuna. Mouvèdre likes to be balanced with earthy flavours like wild mushrooms. So, play with this thought a little. Try one of your favourite recipes with a GSM but consider tweaking it a little with some key ingredients that will harmonize and lift its flavour with the wine.

Ready? Let’s try this. Since it is February and Cupid’s hearts pop up everywhere, let’s start with a heart-healthy recipe. I’m thinking...Roasted Beets with organic Quinoa and Chard. Huh? Not your Mama’s Sunday supper? Well, not mine, either. But gastronomy has evolved and so has our palate. Like the Australians here, we’re setting new trends based on old ones. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is an ancient grain that was considered sacred to the Incas. This humble grain could boast about its nutritional value.  At about 12% to 18% protein, quinoa is a reliable source of protein that is plant based. Talk about a vegetarian’s new friend. It is also a great source of dietary fibre, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and essential amino acids. If this wasn’t good enough for you, it also happens to be gluten free!

“Okay...so it’s ‘good’! But so is porridge!”

True. Thanks to the ingenuity of today’s gastronomy though, it is become über stylish too. Check out the menus of our top restaurants nowadays. Quinoa is certainly gracing the creations of some of the best chefs in the industry. And for good reason too. This renaissance grain with its time-tested goodness and new stylish presence tastes simply...”Mmmm...!”

(...are you sensing a theme here? ...Just checking!)

So, without further adieu, give the recipe below a try. It will help you break into the world of GSMs with confidence. On its own, you can try it with a Grenache. Perfect! The sweetness of the beets will match the fruitiness of Grenache. The chard will pick up the acidity that lacks in the grape and the generous character of quinoa will absorb the potentially high alcohol of the wine.

You could use the same recipe to be paired with Syrah. Just top the chard in step 4 with some grilled sausages or barbequed pulled pork and see how the Syrah sings! Now, if you want to test the versatility of this recipe with a Mouvèdre, sauté in some chopped wild earthy mushrooms separately and add it to the cooked chard just before serving.  You know what could be fun? If you decide to do a themed party on this subject, pick three wines; one Grenache, the other Syrah and the third, Mouvèdre. See if you can get them from the same region and perhaps even the same producer, if available. It may be hard to find the same vintage too, but wouldn’t that be great! You could really pick on the differences in the varietals. Check the wine selections in this newsletter for suggestions.

Now if you really want to go all “maverick-like” and give this recipe a chance with a GSM, then go ahead! Give it a whirl. Add the sausages or barbequed meat as well as the earthy mushrooms to the recipe. It may not pair as well as say, a Beef Wellington with Wild Mushroom Duxelles... but it will certainly be delightful and something worth talking about at your next dinner party!

...but, if extravagance is your style, pair your Beef Welly with a flight of 3: a Southern Rhône, an Aussie GSM and a Californian Rhône Ranger...and see where the night takes you! (I’m talking strictly wines now! I know it’s Valentine’s season and Cupid’s arrows are flying everywhere...but stick to wine, my dears )

That’s it for now folks! You have plenty to think of as you sip on your GSM gems! Enjoy!

Cheers ...and a happy Valentine’s to all!
Lara Cowan


Roasted Beet with Organic Quinoa and Chard

first-feb1 large beet
1 cup quinoa
2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch Swiss Chard, leaves and stalks separated and chopped fine
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Roasting the beet is as simple as it sounds! Wrap the beet in foil...place it in an oven-safe bowl
    and roast it in a 400 degree F oven, for about an hour. Leave it in the foil to cool enough to handle (about 15 – 30 minutes). Then chop into approximately ¼” cubes. Set aside.
  2. Wash the quinoa in cold water a couple times (see note). Set aside. Bring the stock and quinoa to a boil. Salt and pepper may be added at this stage, to suit your taste. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed into the grains; around 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add olive oil, stir and set aside.
  3. In a hot skillet, add the vegetable oil and sauté the chopped onions until they turn a pale golden colour. Season with salt and pepper to suit your taste. Add the chopped stalks of the Swiss chard and sauté for another 2 minutes. Make sure the skillet is still hot, then add the chopped Swiss chard leaves. Work quickly as you continue sautéing for another 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir and remove from heat.
  4. Serve the cooked chard over quinoa...and enjoy this tasty and healthy treat!
  • Quinoa has a bitter tasting coating called ‘saponin’ which makes it unappealing to taste. Most of the grains available in stores nowadays have been processed to remove this coating. However...you never know! It therefore, does not hurt to wash the grains at least a couple times in cold water to ensure you don’t end up with unpalatable quinoa!!

Suggested wines:

sec-febD’Arenberg “The Custodian” Grenache 2006, McLaren Vale, Australia
Delightful medium bodied wine rich in red cherries, raspberries and blackberries. Can’t miss the presence of cinnamon and clove spices! Finishes with soft chocolate and tobacco notes. Spot-on acidity to balance all the berry fruitiness. Relatively low tannins make it an easy drinking wine, though it may not support gamey meals. Perfect with pastas, root vegetables like beets and soft cheeses.
Available at most BC Liquor Stores for $21.99 (SKU#603845)
Also available at private liquor stores.

3-febD’Arenberg “The Footbolt” Shiraz 2007, Mc Laren Vale, Australia
This is good McLaren Vale  Shiraz representation! Blueberries, strawberries, crushed pepper, rich chocolate, nutmeg and smooth coffee notes wrapped in McLaren Vale’s signature hint of leather. Well balanced acidity structured well by firm yet ripe tannins and lush fruit on the palate make this wine a delight right through.  Go ahead and enjoy this dark beauty now as well as feel free to stash it away for another 3 -5 years...it is still showing promise to improve a little more. Available at BC Liquor Stores for $23.99 (SKU#506931), and at private liquor stores.

4-febD’Arenberg “The Twenty Eight Road” Mouvèdre 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia
...not for the faint hearted! This ain’t no weak wine. Unmistaken sun ripened tomatoes on the nose laced in delicate violet notes carrying a palate of plums, blackberries and what the Aussies love to call mulberry, followed by strong pepper, cloves, espresso and liquorice. Its tannins are chewy and strong enough to grow hair on your chest if not decanted! This Mouvèdre means real business with its medium plus acidity, making it a great companion of earthy and gamey meals.
Available at Liberty Wines for $41.99 (hurry though...the 2004 vintage is running out!)

gicondasDomaine La Haute Marone “Le Coeurs du Mistral” 2005, Gigondas AC, France
True Southern Rhône expression. Medium bodied wine delivering spicy notes of pepper, cinnamon, mace and cloves. For its fruit profile, this wine delivers mainly strawberries and raspberries, but there’s no denying the presence of blackberries and plums to show its dark side. Herbal notes of fennel on the nose along with a hint of violets. Medium plus acidity balanced with medium plus ripe tannins. Good length with a cherry tomato note on the finish.  Excellent food wine to go with braised or roasted meats.
Available at BC Liquor Stores for $32.00 (SKU#796730)

5-febThe Holy Trinity, GSM 2003, Barossa, Australia
Wow!! Think of each varietal; Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre...you’ll find it tell tales of each one! Excellent concentration of plum, strawberries, cherries, rich dark chocolate, mulled spices, hints of sage, leather, tobacco...oh my gosh! It keeps going! Strong chewy tannins hold the concentrated flavours that match the nose carrying it all the way through its long finish. The medium plus acidity makes this wine simply delicious on its own as well as with food! I’m thinking Prime Rib and Yorkshire pudding!!
‘G’reat, ‘S’tylish, ‘M’outh-watering wine!
Available at BC Liquor Stores for $39.99 (SKU#19166)

6-febTablas Creek “Espirit de Beaucastel” 2003, Paso Robles, California, USA  
One word...(well, sort of)...”Fan-friggin-tastic!”
Elegance, balance, structure, finesse, concentration...it has it all! Besides Grenache, Syrah and Mouvèdre, this wine also has 7% Counoise (pronounced “coon-wahz”), which is also a Rhône varietal.
Blackberries and raspberries make its fruit component along with stewed blueberries and fig. Let’s bring in the spice tray now with crushed black and green pepper, nutmeg, anise, cloves, cinnamon and dried bay leaf. Throw in rich chocolate and espresso along with fine grained leather to match its tight but refined tannins. Fantastic balance of fruit concentration and acidity reveals layers of complexity through its long luxurious finish.
This is one-well-made-wine! And oh yes, go ahead enjoy one now, but be sure to cellar away at least a few more! Call your friends...see if they want to split a case!
Available at fine wine stores in the Lower Mainland or by the case at
BC Liquor Stores for $42.00 a bottle (SKU#62455)


I found this interesting article about wine and its relation to diabetes. The Harvard School of Public Health is said to have conducted a study of about 100,000 women, aged 25 -42, over 14 years.  The subjects were divided into three categories based on alcohol consumption, as in low, moderate and high consumers. Factors such as smoking habits, family history of diabetes etc. were taken into account. These women were required to fill in a detailed questionnaire every two years about their lifestyle choices and any ongoing health concerns or developments. Here is the interesting find:
Women who consumed moderate amounts of wine, as in 1 – 2 glasses of wine showed a 58% lower likelihood of developing diabetes than non-drinkers. I found this other part interesting though...check it out...both those who consumed less than this amount and those who consumed more, had only a 20% lower risk of developing diabetes than non-drinkers.

What does this mean? Drink wine to avoid diabetes? No! Talk to your doctor about anything to do with nutrition and diabetes! However, when it comes to wine, the name of the game is ‘moderation’. Too much wine consumption is never good, however great the wine! Too little...well, why bother at all.

On that note, here’s to your health! Until next time...cheers!

“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”

 - Benjamin Franklin