There's a reason why Rhône red wines are amongst the most popular blends worldwide.
Whether or not from the Rhône Valley, the trifecta of syrah, grenache, mourvedre (GSM) and mates like carignan, cinsault and counoise make for satisfying, comforting, characterful companions.
The vineyards of France’s Rhône Valley have a 2000-year-old history, reaching back to the ancient Greeks. The vinous tradition has survived and thrived up to present day, with vineyards stretching 250 km from Lyon in the north, south to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing 250 communes and winding along the mighty Rhône River. Divided between the heralded, prestigious north and the generous, welcoming south, the wines have fully rooted themselves in the world of wine. Vignerons and sommeliers the world over have grown up studying the legendary wines of Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, as well as the humble, characterful Côtes du Rhône blends, based around the harmonious GSM trio.
Que Syrah? It’s Shiraz! Though two different names, the grapes are indeed the same. The Rhône epitomizes old world Syrah: fragrant and savoury, with black fruits, high acid, high tannin, ample black pepper and dark floral notes. The think skinned, intense grape is built for oak aging, assisting its longevity in the bottle. Syrah loves granite, especially when it’s well draining and clinging to a slope, as is often the case in the Rhône.
Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine grapes planted on the globe. This grape is a heat seeking missile, and its penchant for dry, rocky soils makes it suitable for hot, arid climates. The thin skinned, light flesh grape makes wines higher in alcohol and lighter in colour, often desirable traits in a blending partner. Raspberry, strawberry and cherry are hallmark, with characteristic white pepper, spice and dried herb savouriness.
Wild and meaty Mourvedre can be hard to tame as a solo grape, but blended, along with powerful Syrah and friendly Grenache, it forms the ideal GSM trio, a harmonious partnership for quaffable bistro wines and as the base for powerful Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Solo, you can feel its earthy black fruits, streaks of tar, and intense tannins.
Here are our Top 10 recently tasted Rhône blends, from the Rhône Valley and beyond.