Gamay is a purple coloured grape, most often grown in France and used in the production of red or rosé wines. The main areas of production are Beaujolais and the Loire Valley around the town of Tours.
It has a rather chequered history, first appearing in notes around 1360, near the village of Gamay in the Bourgogne region of France, where it is thought to get it’s name. It was easy to grow and produced good yields, but poor wines. So much so by 1395 it was banned and again in 1455 by Philippe the Good to protect the good name and reputation of Burgundy‘s red wines made from the Pinot Noir grape.
Today much has changed, and Gamay now produces light floral wines that have a lilac and violet nose. In flavour the fruit is very prominent of strawberry and raspberry styles with mild banana notes. The wines are light in style and colour and are produced with a form of Maceration Carbonic fermentation for the more commercial lines. Here whole bunches ferment under sealed, controlled conditions to extract the maximum flavours and colour, without the tannins. As a result the wines can be drunk very young, the infamous Beaujolais Nouveau being an example of very early production.
The heart of the Beaujolais district holds 10 Beaujolais Cru areas. Here, from the granite soils and with the tradional methods of fermenting and oak aging, comes a very different, more intense wine . The fruit style has more weight, the flavours more depth and the great balance of acidity and mild tannin makes superb drinking. These 10 Beaujolais Cru all have their own characteristics and include such famous names as Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgan, and Moulin a Vent to name a few.
Over in the Loire, the Gamay is often blended with the Cot (Malbec) or Cabernet Franc grape to produce good, soft, clean, red wines that are light in weight and good on flavours . There is also a rosé produced and here the flavours tend towards melon and candy, giving a rosé wine favoured by a sweeter tooth. The Loire wines are well worth trying as they take you to a different experience, away from the normal heavier red wine and nearer to fresher, lighter, fruitier styles with loads of character.
France produces about 95% of the worlds’s Gamay, and so far nowhere else has it really taken off. It is grown in the Niagara Peninsula in Canada, Oregon in the USA and some parts of Australia. Nowhere so far though has really taken Gamay on to any major extent.
A light, floral, red wine, full of fruit up front with a good clean acidity and balance. It is an easy red wine to drink on it’s own and it also goes well with pork, chicken, lamb, and grilled salmon. It is said that it should be served lightly chilled with the exception of the Cru Beaujolais which is drunk slightly warmer.