The 2011 Pontificis (translates to Pope) Grenache (50%) Syrah (30%) and Mourvedre (20%), also known as a GSM blend is a Vin du Pays d’Oc wine sourced from vineyards in the Languedoc region of southern France and is a Trader Joe’s $6.99 import exclusive. This blend is produced for Trader Joe’s by Badet Clement and Cie who specializes in producing French wine for the export market. The GSM blend is usually associated with wines from the Southern Rhone Valley, but it is increasing in popularity in the Languedoc. When you see a French wine that name checks the Pope, you invariably think of Chateaunuef-du-Pape (means the Pope’s new castle) wine from the Southern Rhone Valley, which dates back to the 1300s when the Pope left Italy and set up shop in the south of France for a spell. Back in the day, the Pope’s were a thirsty lot and they hand their hands in the production of wine in the Rhone, the Languedoc and Burgundy. A Vin du Pays wine is a lower designation than the AOC wines, these wines are made with grapes that are indicative of their region, but were not produced to AOC rules and regulations. The d’Oc on the end of Vin du Pays shows the wine is sourced from the Languedoc. There are many different reasons for a wine to be declassified to the Vin de Pays level, but most commonly it is because the wine was produced especially for the export market. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is a dark, but see-thru burgundy red. The nose is dark berries, Altoid spice, mocha, a hint of smoke and vanilla. This is a soft, smooth blend, at least until the mid palate where solid dose of spice kicks in. It starts with black cherry, blueberry, black Twizzlers and herbal tea. The mid palate brings a sharp hit of herbs and spice, they add some bite along with a cooling splash of plum. The tannins do not get in the way, the acidity is balanced and the finish is subdued but lengthy.
The Pontificis GSM Blend is a decent $6.99 French Red Blend. The wallop of spice on the mid palate is a little jolting, but it starts to blend with the body of the wine if you give it time to open up. The bottle was open for 3 hours before I poured a glass and was in the glass for 45 minutes before the wine opened up. If you pop the top and drink the Pontificis straight away, you ain’t going to like it. Use a decanter or simply give the wine enough time and this is an enjoyable little sub 7 buck French GSM.