That’s not a typo in the title of this week’s blog…a blog that focuses on rocks. Yes rocks, those things on the ground that are bigger than pebbles and smaller than boulders. Rocks. Because rocks help make the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley, well…. rock.
Those wines are the wondrous wine blends of Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, and surrounding areas including wines that are sometimes just labeled “Cotes du Rhone” and the rocky soils of the Southern Rhone do play an important role in growing grapes for these Southern Rhone beauties.
One side note first about the grapes that do go into these wines…. there are a lot of them!! In fact, over two dozen grape varieties can go into the blends of wines from this area (Chateauneuf du Pape itself can contain over a dozen different grapes, including some white varietals!)
So what’s up with GSM and what does any of this have to do with rocks?
GaletsAlthough up to two dozen grape varietals are permitted to be used in the Southern Rhone appellations, three grapes predominate, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM for short) and it is the interplay between these grapes (as well as small amounts of other permitted varietals) that make the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley so luscious and interesting.
Ok, so we covered the GSM thing but how do rocks come into play? Well the vineyards in the Southern Rhone (particularly in certain areas of Chateauneuf du Pape) are literally covered with rounded rocks known as “galets,” that over time, washed down the Rhone River. The sight of vines seemingly growing out of a field of rocks is an amazing sight to see when one visits this area. Some growers even pile the rocks up along the base of the vines.
And these rocks are a blessing and a curse as they hasten ripening in an already warm growing region by absorbing the heat of the day and releasing it at night (which can be a bad thing in warmer years) but they also protect the soil from becoming parched from the daytime heat and can protect the vines from bad weather such as the Mistral winds (Mistral winds are the very cold winds that blow in from the north that are so fierce they can actually damage the vines).
As a consequence of the rocks, other aspects of soil, and climate, the wines of the Southern Rhone Valley (bearing appellation names such as Chateauneuf du Pape, Gingondas, Cotes du Rhone,) tend to be lower in tannin and acidity but concentrated and usually higher in alcohol. Although the styles of wines vary, GSM wines tend to be rustic, earthy, spicy with both dark and red fruit flavors. These wines go great with roasted meats, game birds, sausage and other cured meats.
GSM wines really do rock, so give them a try!
(week of 9/3/2018)
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