Description 1 of 2

 

Name of varietal: Gamay
 
Common synonyms: Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, Bourgignon Noir, Game, Petit Bourgignon, Petit Gamai, Petite Lyonnaise
 
Parentage of the grape: unknown
 
History of the grape: Legend has it that it was brought over by the Romans in the first century BC to the town of Beaujeu, near Beaune, in the Burgundy region of France. In the mid 1300s it was cultivated as a relief from the strains of the Black Death. It’s much easier to grow than Pinot Noir, which is the distinguished red grape of Burgundy, and can ripen up to two weeks earlier. However, in 1395, the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Hardi (Philip the Bold), signed an edict outlawing the grapes. He said they were “inflame and deloyal” (despicable and disloyal) and taking too much space from the noble grape Pinot Noir. In 1459, Philippe le Bon (Philip the Good), grandson of Le Hardi, signed another edict reaffirming his family’s distaste for the varietal, afraid their existence and usage would tarnish the good reputation of Burgundy. But just south of the main growing regions there, in Beaujolais, it was able to take root and allowed to stay there. 
 
It is produced in high quality releases from Beaujolais Villages and the ten Cru Beaujolais (see below). Perhaps, good or bad, it is best known as the grape of Beaujolais Nouveau, a much-ballyhooed style that is released the third Thursday of November. The method of carbonic maceration (adding carbon dioxide to grapes to speed up fermentation, converting sugars without yeast while preserving youth and freshness) is used for this style. Restaurants and winebars go toute la fou this time of year, proclaiming: “Les Beaujolais Nouveaux est arrivée!!” 
 
Characteristics of the grape: Villages and Cru Beaujolais are light to medium-bodied, tart cherry, raspberry, red plum, red currant, acidic, lightly perfumed. Beaujolais Nouveau tends to be more fruity and sugary, sometimes almost resembling candy and bubble-gum flavors, but also sometimes gassy with antisceptic undertones. 
 
Regions where the grape is currently important: Beaujolais, the ten Crus: Brouilly, Cotes de Brouilly, Fleurie, Morgon, Chenas, Chirouble, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie, St. Amour, Julienas. Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Nouveau can come from anywhere within or blends from these Crus. Loire valley (usually blended with Côt, a.k.a. Malbec, and Cabernet Franc), Canada, California, Oregon, Australia. 
 
Type or types of wines the grape produces: light to medium-bodied dry reds, Beaujolais Nouveau carbonic maceration styles
 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

(aka. Gamay, Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc)

Gamay is an ancient variety that has long been denied a place in the court of noble varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. In North America the vine is rarely treated with esteem and can only be found intermittently across the continent. The exception is Ontario, where Gamay thrives in the Niagara Peninsula and Pelee Island DVAs. The best Ontario Gamays, often labeled as ‘Reserve’, have a structure similar to Cru Beaujolais. In France Gamay has long been under appreciated. Even in Burgundy where it originates, Gamy has historically been recognized as being superior in quantity, but much lacking in quality, relative to the region’s other red grape, the noble Pinot Noir. In fact, as far back as the fourteenth century, the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Hardi (Philip the Bold), in his ordinance of 1395 banished the “disloyal plant” from Cote d’Or vineyards. More recently, with the introduction of AOC regulations in 1935, Gamay’s ‘legal’ territory in its Burgundy homeland was restricted, confining the grape to the region’s southern most districts of Macon and Beaujolais. The lack of respect afforded to Gamay is not surprising, considering the character of its wine. In the Beaujolais region Gamay most often produces fruity unpretentious wines intended for early consumption. This is exacerbated by the Beaujolais tendency to encourage its most fruit forward disposition with a style of fermentation known as Carbonic Maceration. Apart from a scattering in the central Loire and in the Jura, Gamay in France is almost entirely contained within its Beaujolais homeland. However, the variety still ranks in the top ten most planted red varieties in France. Not withstanding, Gamay does enjoy a vast international market, and it is surprising that the grape has not migrated to more vineyards abroad. However, its traditional fermentation method, carbonic maceration, has been adopted by wine regions far and wide, using a range of local grapes to achieve wines with similarly intense, youthful berry fruitiness, in a soft and easy style. Given a more standard red wine fermentation, Gamay can produce more serious wines. The best examples come from ten small ‘Cru’ villages in the Beaujolais hills, particularly those from the commune of Moulin-a-Vent. The wines made here often can age in the medium term, gaining mature Pinot Noir-like qualities.

Many a place, they plant Gamay.
Especially in France at Beaujolais.
Where they have a fascination,
with carbonic maceration,
and wine that’s softer than Cabernet.

They make a wine, they call Nouveau.
It's purple and pink like lilies of Van Gogh.
On the third Thursday of November,
they merrily go on a bender,
until passing out on the steps of the chateau.

Gamay’s a wine to pair with every meal.
With chicken or fish, or a nice piece of veal.
Some say it’s oh so fruity,
and it’s sure a thing of beauty.
But drink it when young for greatest appeal.

France’s Gamay has crossed the sea.
And it’s as good over here, I guarantee.
It’s eagerly drunk round the nation.
Oh that whole grape fermentation.
Give me Gamay for lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea! – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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