GSM Blend Substitute...?

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Jbu50

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Looking to make a Rhone style GSM blend this fall with Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. I can get the Grenache and Syrah grapes from Central Valley, California, but I've never seen any distributor in my area bring in Mourvedre. So, my question is this: What is a good substitute for Mourvedre, from the list of grapes available?
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NorCal

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For me, the closest that I am familiar with would be Merlot.; light on tannin, fruity, medium body.

We have the opposite problem. I have confirmed a ton of Mourvedre grapes this year. I now have a source for Syrah (my new vineyard) and looking for Grenache.
 

Jbu50

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I'm wondering if this boldness chart has any use in this case. Mourvedre is very high on the boldness chart, while Merlot is classified as medium body. Carignan is even lighter, considered light to medium body. Doesn't the boldness have to "match" when looking for a substitute for Mourvedre?
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Jbu50

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...or, perhaps the key word here is “savory”?
 

winemaker81

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Doesn't the boldness have to "match" when looking for a substitute for Mourvedre?
I've re-written this reply 3 times, as each time I look at the chart I get different ideas. 🤣

According to the chart, Rhone/GSM is medium body, weighted towards the top that segment of the scale. What ratio of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre are you planning? Let's say 50%/25%/25% for discussion purposes.

How "pure" does the Rhone-style blend need to be? If it's Rhone-only grapes, that restricts the list quite a bit.

I like the idea of adding Carignan, but it's going to reduce body. So the balancing act is to increase the body that Carignan reduces, by decreasing Grenache and/or increasing Syrah. For Grenache/Carignan/Syrah, you could go 40%/10%/50% or 40%/20%/40%. I thought of other ratios, but the list of choices is lengthy.

If you have wiggle room on purity, I'd consider replacing the Mourvedre with 2 parts Carignan and 1 part Cabernet Sauvignon. There are other choices, I'm just tossing out one.

Honestly? Looking at the list of grapes -- regardless of what you choose, you'll have a blend that is pleasing. Don't over-think this -- you'll drive yourself insane.

Last fall I made 2 field blends, using (hopefully) educated guesses to make my choices. One is 67% Merlot, 33% Blend (equal parts Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot), and the other is 40% Merlot, 40% Zinfandel, 20% Blend. I am wildly pleased with both, as green as they are now.

This fall I'm looking at a Rhone-style blend; However, while I can get Syrah, Mourvedre, and Petit Sirah, I cannot get Grenache. I'm debating going with a very heavy red, or figuring out what I can lighten it with. I want to go with a "pure" blend, but may have to sacrifice my principals in favor of what grapes I can get. ;)
 

Meadini

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I’m in the same boat as the OP. I can get Petit Verdot but I don’t have any experience with that grape. Would that be a good option?
 

winemaker81

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I’m in the same boat as the OP. I can get Petit Verdot but I don’t have any experience with that grape. Would that be a good option?
IMO, yes. Search for "Petit Verdot" in this forum -- in several recent threads folks have spoke of the benefit of adding a small amount of Petit Verdot radically improves their wine. If @Jbu50 had it in his lists, I would have recommended it.

This is an area where it's impossible to give specific advice. In general, all the Bordeaux grapes blend well. All the Rhone grapes blend well. These blend well with Italian grapes. Honestly, it's going to be impossible for you to produce a bad blend using any of these grapes. (let's not leave out Spanish).

My best guess is to use the above chart and take a stab at a given body level. Keep in mind that chart is an approximation, as the grapes vary from year to year, and the location makes a difference. You are making an educated guess.

Commercial wineries don't guess, because they can make dozens or even hundreds of barrels of each grape, and blend. Compared to us, they have unlimited resources. I can't do that, so I read about the grapes, I read about blends (commercial and from folks on this site), and I say $&#* it and roll the dice. 🤣

Stick with grapes we know that blend, e.g., Bordeaux & Rhone, and you are going to be happy with the result.
 

Meadini

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IMO, yes. Search for "Petit Verdot" in this forum -- in several recent threads folks have spoke of the benefit of adding a small amount of Petit Verdot radically improves their wine. If @Jbu50 had it in his lists, I would have recommended it.

This is an area where it's impossible to give specific advice. In general, all the Bordeaux grapes blend well. All the Rhone grapes blend well. These blend well with Italian grapes. Honestly, it's going to be impossible for you to produce a bad blend using any of these grapes. (let's not leave out Spanish).

My best guess is to use the above chart and take a stab at a given body level. Keep in mind that chart is an approximation, as the grapes vary from year to year, and the location makes a difference. You are making an educated guess.

Commercial wineries don't guess, because they can make dozens or even hundreds of barrels of each grape, and blend. Compared to us, they have unlimited resources. I can't do that, so I read about the grapes, I read about blends (commercial and from folks on this site), and I say $&#* it and roll the dice. 🤣

Stick with grapes we know that blend, e.g., Bordeaux & Rhone, and you are going to be happy with the result.
No matter how many times you’ve advised the use of the search function, I still need to hear it again. 🤦‍♂️😂. There’s just so many choices, I tend to get lost in the rabbit hole.
 

winemaker81

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Search is honestly not necessarily the best solution, as you have to know enough to know what keywords to search on. I'm an IT guy, and hitting the right keywords on a tech site is FAR from easy in some situations. Most tech sites are filled with egotistical jerks, so getting a straight answer can be tough. I'm thankful WMT is populated mostly by good folks.
 

Jbu50

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There is another distributor in my area that has previously imported Petit Sirah. Would that be a good substitute for Petit Verdot?
 

winemaker81

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There is another distributor in my area that has previously imported Petit Sirah. Would that be a good substitute for Petit Verdot?
Petit Sirah (also called Durif) is a child of Syrah (called Shiraz in Australia). I pulled the following description from the CA Wine Club web site. This is on my list for a Rhone blend in the fall, so yeah, I'd try it.

Petite Sirah is related to Syrah –its parents are Syrah and Peloursin, a heritage, nearly extinct French grape variety. Like Syrah, Petite Sirah is a red wine, but it has a distinct character all its own. Think big (really big, not petite) and bold flavors, with rushes of blueberry and pepper and rich dark chocolate. It is a very tannic red wine, loaded with antioxidants and saturated with a deep red hue. The word “inky” is often used to describe it.
 

Jbu50

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Well, I certainly agree that you can drive yourself insane if you overthink the blending combinations. Thanks for all the suggestions and info offered above. I'm thinking of keeping it simple with something like 50/50 Grenache & Sirah, or adding 10% of something like Petit Verdot or Petit Sirah, as you recommend.

But, as is always the case with purchasing imported grapes and this type of field blending, you usually end up shooting from the hip once you get there, depending on what's available, the condition of the grapes, etc.

(Few days ago my Dad brought over a store bought Australian Shiraz and I blended it 50/50 with some young Grenache that I made recently and it was impressively good...!)

The other thing that makes this investigation crazy is the fact that all the research I do keeps indicating that these Rhone blends from France don't just use GSM but a long list of other wines in their blend. Not sure if this following image of Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend is accurate, but this is surely something to blow your mind.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape-wine-blend-illustration-winefolly.png
 
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JohnW

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I vote for Petite Verdot if you can get it. I did a mini blending class at a Virginia winery and found PV to be an excellent blending grape. I have only have had the Spanish version of Morvedre, Monastrell, but both it and PV seem to have a very long finish. FYI - when I made a small batch of GSM I just added two bottles Monastrell that I purchased from Total Wine.
 
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winemaker81

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Few days ago my Dad brought over a store bought Australian Shiraz and I blended it 50/50 with some young Grenache that I made recently and it was impressively good...!
That is a brilliant idea! We're home winemakers so we think in terms of what we make, but there's not reason to not use commercial wines as a proof of concept. Granted, there's no guarantee the commercial wines are 100% of what's on the label, but for a proof of concept, it's close enough.

In northern Rhone, only Syrah is allowed to be grown in the major appellations, although whites are sometimes blended in. GSM is southern Rhone, and yeah, there's 9 (?) red grapes grown. I've read different figures -- 9 was the most common in the sources I read.

A searched produced quite a few hits on Rhone grapes, and the major details were consistent between sources. The following page describes the grapes of Chateauneuf-du-Pape:


The Rhone Rangers page also has information:

 

sour_grapes

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A searched produced quite a few hits on Rhone grapes, and the major details were consistent between sources. The following page describes the grapes of Chateauneuf-du-Pape:

I saw the preview snippet in your link and thought "What! I thought they allowed 13?!?!" Then I clicked on the link and found this:

The Eighteen Grapes of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Up from Thirteen
5 of these 18 grapes are actually very rare and hardly used except in very small quantities at some wineries that happen to have small plots of it remaining from an old tradition or working at reviving them.

The original legal text of the AOC Chateauneuf du Pape dating back to 1936 only allowed 13 grapes. The 5 rare ones were added in a recent amendment in 2009.

This is why you will generally hear people talk about Chateauneuf as having 13 grape varieties allowed, even though there are now 18.
 

Jbu50

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I'm starting to realize that perhaps the best way forward is to first find the right Grenache/Syrah combination...and then look for the Mourvedre effect after...

And, perhaps a field blend is not the way to go! Maybe I should make a demijohn of Grenache, and a demijohn of Syrah, and blend afterwards.

I guess that opens up the issue of field blending vs whatever you call it, post-fermentation blending.

Field blending is the way I've been taught. All the old-school Europeans buying cases of grapes at the city distributors have their own field blend recipe, i.e. two boxes of this, six boxes of that, etc. That's what I've always done. But, I guess if I want to find the right Grenache/Syrah balance, there's no reason why I can't just make both of them separately and blend later on. It would obviously give more control over the blend.
 

winemaker81

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I guess if I want to find the right Grenache/Syrah balance
When you have no idea what to do, making the wines separately and blending after 6 to 12 months can be a good idea. It reduces your risk to some extent, but complicates your winemaking as you have multiple batches to maintain, e.g., separate topup bottles, etc.

How much wine, in total, are you planning? If you have the capacity, make 3 gallon carboys of some of the other grapes mentioned to use in blending. Once your main blend is done, put everything else together and call in Frankenwine. 🤪

Also keep in mind that the "right blend" is a moving target. It depends both on the wine AND personal factors (mood, what was eaten, etc.) of the tasters. Let's say you plan 5 blends and do a double-blind tasting with 4 friends. Everyone ranks the wines from favorite to least favorite, save the score sheets without deciphering which wine is which. Perform the taste testing every month from Month 6 to Month 12, then after #12 decipher all the score sheets and compare the rankings from month to month.

Your results are likely to be inconsistent, as the wines change during aging and do not change at the same rate or the same way. Plus the personal factors of the tasters will vary from tasting to tasting.

The "right blend" exists at a given point in time. When you hit a blend that you like, go with it and don't second guess yourself or look back. Therein lies insanity ...

A large chunk of the guys that taught me had their own recipes, e.g., 10 boxes Zinfandel, 3 boxes Muscat, 2 boxes Alicante, etc. Most were very rigid and never wavered from their chosen recipe. I suspect this developed from older times when the community harvested the grapes from the vineyard and it all went into the vat. Ya got what ya got, as the grapes were what they were.


I may put this label on a few bottles ....

Frankenwine Label.png
 

Ajmassa

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. But, I guess if I want to find the right Grenache/Syrah balance, there's no reason why I can't just make both of them separately and blend later on. It would obviously give more control over the blend.
Agreed. Theoretically. But in reality our old schooler teachers knew a thing or two about logistics. Full time jobs & raising families w/ limited means.
Field blending just made sense. GSM of 3 separate wines= more vol of each, 3x amount of work at every turn. 3 crushes, ferments, pressings, racks, cleanups, vessels, space, the leftover odd amounts.
Also,without a refined palate the blending part was basically a guessing game for me.

But it is fun to do if ya have the means. My fam did exactly as you mentioned. The supplier suggested a blend ratio (in our case it was Alicante, muscat, Thompson seedless, & Zin) and they made it for generations. As @winemaker81 says, ya got what ya got. Coincidentally, when I visited family in Italy years back their homemade wine (from homegrown grapes) tasted almost identical to ours here in the US.
Regarding the Mourvèdre, whether field or separate, my vote is to substitute w/ anything (or everything) and just call it Chateuneuf-du-Jbu50.
 

Jbu50

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How much wine, in total, are you planning? If you have the capacity, make 3 gallon carboys of some of the other grapes mentioned to use in blending.

A large chunk of the guys that taught me had their own recipes, e.g., 10 boxes Zinfandel, 3 boxes Muscat, 2 boxes Alicante, etc. Most were very rigid and never wavered from their chosen recipe. I suspect this developed from older times when the community harvested the grapes from the vineyard and it all went into the vat. Ya got what ya got, as the grapes were what they were.
I've always made wine by the demijohn. 6 cases = 1 demijohn is the rule. By cases, I mean the 36lb wood boxes. Nowadays the trend seems to have shifted to 42lb plastic lugs, but I think the rule is the same. Anyway, I like the idea of making a 3 gallon carboy of the Mourvedre substitute and I might just make a demijohn instead of each - Petite Verdot and Petit Sirah, because as it ages its still good for blending with my other projects. I'm still old school enough to just field blend 50/50 Grenache/Syrah. There is something seductive in that approach - mixing the two different varieties together into the barrel and fermenting together. Gotta trust your intuition. Blending post-fermentation is probably more precise, but has anybody every compared the two different approaches? At the home winemaking scale, its obviously more efficient to field blend. But has anybody every compared the final result between field blending and post-fermentation blending? Perhaps that's a discussion for another thread. But, I'm gonna do some more tests at home, blend some of my Grenache with some store bought Shiraz and see what ratio I like the best, and then just do that ratio in a field blend. I'd probably want 2 demijohns for myself, and my cousin who got me interested in Rhone is gonna want at least 1 demijohn, so there you go. 3 demijohn, plus 1 for my Dad, that's four! Chateuneuf-du-JohnnyB!
 
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