Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! How do you feel about wine blends? Some people think of blends as “cheap” wines and will not touch them while others have discovered that some of the best (and most age-worthy) wines are sourced from multiple grapes and even multiple regions. It is true that some blends are cheaply made and aren’t worth the money but consider famous wines of the world like Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape or Champagne which are synonymous with the highest quality and you can see how important blends can be. These wines are in fact, blended with many types of grapes (legally controlled varietals in this case) which gives winemakers the opportunity to “tweak” their blends by understanding and applying the strengths and characteristics of each grape.

Another great example of sought-after blended wines are GSM wines. GSM stands for Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz and Monastrell/Mouvedre and this blend can most often be found in countries like France, Spain and Australia. Grenache and Syrah need sufficient heat from the sun to grow properly and allow their thick skins to develop fully which is why in some years, blends may taste different than previous years. If the Grenache or Syrah from a particular vintage did not grow properly then extra additions of the Mouvedre/Monastrell grape can help fill the gap in the blend. This in turn, will change or alter the flavor profile (and sometimes price) of that wine.

GSM wines can usually be purchased at a reasonable price (often between $20 and $30) and deliver simple but intensely fruity flavors. These types of wines are also extremely food friendly which makes them a great choice to bring to a party on the deck, a potluck with friends or a BBQ event.

You would expect most GSM to taste the same but I have found the opposite to be true. Taking a look at the wines of the week, one is sweeter and more concentrated (L’HOMME) and the other is drier, more restrained and higher in acid (La Pepica) as a typical old-world wine often is. Interestingly enough, both wines come from old-world regions like France and Spain and yet, the character of each wine is quite different. For an Australian option, check out a bottle of Holy Trinity ($70) which is incredibly smooth and fruity.

Similarities in both wines arise, such as the red fruits and meaty notes, but after that, the stylistic differences are striking. Some of this has to do with the growing region of each wine; the French wine is from a protected AOC (usually indicates higher quality) and the Spanish wine is a general product of Spain (indicating a more generic, common wine). I suspect however, that the quality of flavors in the wine is due to the quality of the grapes and the production methods used to make each wine.

This contrast in style between two similar yet different wines showcases why trying many types of wine (even from the same region) is necessary to grow your palate and understanding of quality. That being said, quality can mean different things to different people. In the past, I would have chosen the Pepica over the L’Homme and I found that I not only enjoyed the quality of the French wine but I appreciated its full fruitiness over the slightly dull Spanish red. A quick note here, both wines were purchased at Urban Cellars in Saskatoon and if you love full, fruity, smooth red wine then you may want to consider buying a half or full case. Here are my wine picks of the week!

La Pepica GSM 2021: (Wine of Spain). Dry red, medium ruby color with hints of purple. The nose is simple and fruity with pleasing aromas of bright cherry, raspberry, plums, smoked meat and trailing pepper spice/cloves. To the taste, flavors of red fruit and plum and smoky meat intermingle on the brief mid-palate while warming pepper spice quickly moves in (black pepper and cloves). This warm spice sticks to the tastebuds and provides a long, enjoyable finish. The flavors of the wine could be more concentrated and for that reason the wine tastes a bit light. Medium-plus acidity gets the mouth watering and highlights the sour cherry character while medium-plus tannins add quite a lot of bitterness. Medium body with medium concentration and good intensity. I typically enjoy this old-world style of wine but this one tastes a bit harsh at times. Slightly out of balance due to the higher acidity and bitter tannins. Good! $20, 12.5% ABV

L’HOMME GSM 2021: (Mont Baudile Pays d’Herault, France). Off-dry red, deep purple with traces of ruby color. The high-intensity nose opens with ripe dark and red fruits (blackberry, raspberry, cherries and plums) with a savory note of roasted meat and sweet violets. The first noticeable component to the taste is the intense concentration of flavors. Akin to tasting a fruit grown in full sunlight, the wine explodes with fruity potential. Tons of smooth, full-bodied flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, wild raspberry, rich violet and ripe plums are mellowed out by medium acidity. Somehow, the wine is still beautifully balanced as it delivers the high-intensity flavors of concentrated violet and black raspberries. The mid-palate is long and fruity which gives plenty of time for savoring and enjoying. The mid-palate transitions perfectly into tangy pepper and wild herbs with a touch of smokey leather/smoked meat as the medium tannins create a waxy/creamy mouthfeel. You will want to sip this red again and again as each sip provides new flavors to consider such as field berries and fresh pomegranate juice. This is the perfect wine to bring to a party or BBQ; it will also pair incredibly well with a beef pot roast and freshly roasted garden vegetables. Very good! $24, 13.5% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!