Your Drinks Questions Answered
Red wine (courtesy Libreshot)
Plus how to make an Irish Rose and more...
Plus how to make an Irish Rose and more...
It’s time once again to check my email bag for your wine and spirits questions. You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What is a “GSM” wine?
A: In relation to wine, GSM is an acronym denoting 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. Syrah also adds darker fruit notes, like blueberry and plum and sometimes even black olive. Mourvèdre—also widely known as Monastrell in Spain and used to be known as Mataro in California and Australia—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. Results vary, of course, depending where the grapes are cultivated.
Within the “holy” 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. Grenache tends to be the predominant grape in most GSM blends, but not necessarily. Indeed, in Australia Shiraz tends enjoy a larger percentage.
There are lots of great kosher expressions of the GSM blend, especially from France, CA, and Israel.
Q: Besides Irish Coffee, what’s a good Irish whiskey-based cocktail?
A: Consider the Irish Rose cocktail. It is basically an Irish whiskey version of the old Jack Rose cocktail (which is applejack, lime juice, and grenadine), and changed to the Daisy category by being topped off with a little sparkling water. The Irish Rose cocktail was first introduced – so far as I am aware – by one “Honest Jake” Didier (1865-1945), a New York bartender whose pocket bartending guide was popular in the very early twentieth century and went through numerous editions. In the fifth edition he included this drink. Here is the version I’ve come to enjoy most (courtesy of cocktail guru Dave Wondrich):
2 oz Irish whiskey, preferably pure pot still (such as Green Spot) or single malt (such as Bushmills 10-Year-Old)
1/2 oz Freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 tsp Raspberry syrup or grenadine (the commercial stuff is fine here)
1/2 oz 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.
Q: What’s good this week?
A: The GSM question prompts me to recommend two great but wildly different GSM blend wines that I recently enjoyed.
Shirah, Geshem (Central Coast, CA), 2014 ($45): This is a medium-bodied yet lush and somewhat intense blend of 68% Grenache, 7% Syrah, and 25% Mourvèdre. The name is playful in that GeSheM is the three letter Hebrew word for rain—Gimmel-Shin-Mem, and so is here also an allusion to its GSM blend. This is rich and jammy, and practically bursting forth with ripe red and dark berry fruit notes; with air and time the fruit becomes a bit more stewed and compote in character, giving a somewhat unexpected but not unwelcome Falstaffian note. While not especially graceful, this is not particularly clunky either, and remains complex and tasty enough to sustain interest and offer joy from first sip to last. 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 2-3 years. L’Chaim!