Red Wine Basics: Gamay Wine

Cluster of Gamay Grapes (Photo credit Wikepedia)
Gamay Grapes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gamay is a deep purple grape variety most notably grown in the Beaujolais region of France. This grape variety has been around for a very long time, with cultivation beginning in the 14th century in the village of Gamay. Cultivation of this grape helped the village recover from the destruction of the Black Death, but was soon outlawed and production was moved to the Beaujolais region. Apparently the Duke of Burgundy thought that the land was better suited to growing the popular Pinot Noir. So, we find dominant production of this grape varietal in Beaujolais. The wine is typically bottled under the appellation Beaujolais. It is also grown in Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Oregon, California and just a bit in Italy and New Zealand.

The grape is relatively easy to cultivate and produces light-bodied, low alcohol, low tannin, highly acidic wine. The wine is characteristically very fruity, exhibiting flavors of strawberry, raspberry, red cherry and banana. Hints of bubblegum, cotton candy, vanilla and chalk may also be detected depending on the region in which it is grown.

This wine is meant to be drunk after little to moderate aging, with no more than two years of aging suggested. Beaujolais Nouveau is bottled before the grapes have even finished fermenting, lending it a chemical sort of taste reminiscent of paint thinner. Carbonic maceration is the technique behind making Beaujolais Nouveau. Carbon dioxide is added to the grapes, speeding up fermentation. Sugars are converted to alcohol without yeast, leading to a youthfully fresh wine. It is very fruity and light bodied, with almost no tannins, meaning little to know flavor structure or complexity. Beaujolais Nouveau is known to be released to the public on the third Thursday of November each year. Two other Gamay wines, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais, are allowed to age longer, resulting in medium body and a bit more substance.

A glass of Beaujolais red wine with salad (Photo Credit Wikipedia)
Beaujolais Wine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Many enjoy light, fruity wines, including me. Gamay varietals may be right up my alley. Gamay grapes are often used to make ros├Ęs, which correct me if I’m wrong, are known for being sweet and sparkly. I’m all about sweet and sparkly! Gamay is also commonly blended with Pinot Noir. Gamay wine is light and palatable, making it easy to drink and perfectly able to be paired with a large variety of foods. Common food pairings include chicken, fish- often salmon, mild cheeses, squash, pork, and foods with tomato based sauces. Try it sitting down to a light lunch of chicken salad or pasta for a pleasant afternoon break.

This concludes my exploration into Gamay. Join me next time for a discussion about Cabernet Franc.

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Louise Bryant

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