Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gamay: The Most Underappreciated Red Grape

Ask yourself this... When was the last time you had a wine made from the Gamay grape? If you cannot remember the last time or if you do not even know what regions produce Gamay, your not alone. I tend to think that in the grand scheme of red wine hierarchy, Gamay would be at the bottom. Looking up, Gamay would be seeing the likes of King Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, and its close neighbour and distant relative Pinot Noir, among others. My goal is to open a few eyes and maybe your heart to the Gamay grape. It will surprise you, as it has surprised myself with it's depth, flavours, and it's great ability to be paired with an assortment of food!

Gamay is grown in many locations around the world. It can be found in Ontario, Oregon, Switzerland, but the most well know region for Gamay is the Beaujolais region in France (Just south of Burgundy). Beaujolais is considered the "Mecca" of Gamay. You can find some stellar wines from this region at your local wine shop or liquor store. These wines will not say Gamay on the bottle, but will be labeled either as Beaujolais (Meaning the grapes can be blended from many different sites), Beaujolais Village (Coming from one of the 39 villages), or with the region that it comes from (The Cru). When shopping for Beaujolais look for a Cru Beaujolais, as these will offer the best complexity, flavour and overall bang for your buck ($15-$25)!

                                              The 10 Cru Beaujolais Sites (Listed from lightest body to fullest)
1. Brouilly
2. Regnie                        ** Can be aged up to 3 years
3. Chiroubles

4. Cote de Brouilly
5. Fleurie                       ** Can be aged up to 4 years and could use a year of bottle age
6. Saint Amour

7. Chenas
8. Julienas                     ** Can be aged up to 10 years. Serious Cru Beaujolais!
9. Morgon
10. Moulin-a-Vent

Sadly, not a lot of people know of Cru Beaujolais. When they think of Beaujolais they only know of Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine that is picked, crush, bottled and ready to be sold in stores on the 3rd week of November of that year. This form of Beaujolais is a great business plan, as it gets the product from the farm to the store quickly and creates cash flow. These wines are normally full of fruit and lack complexity. Overall, Beaujolais Nouveau has given Gamay a bad reputation in the wine world. 

More often then not, I am overwhelmingly surprised when I open a bottle of Cru Beaujolais or a Gamay Noir. These wines have great fruit, acidity & tannin structure, and a lasting finish. They can be paired with light and heavy dishes and are a staple for Thanksgiving dinners. So next time your in a wine store, pick up a Cru Beaujolais and experience Gamay at it's finest.

Like I said earlier, Gamay is grown in many different regions around the world. The Niagara region is one that is starting to produce quality Gamay Noir. This past weekend I visited two wineries who produce Gamay Noir, Tawse and 13th Street Winery. They were both extremely refreshing and gave me great enjoyment. Here are my notes on 13th Street's Gamay Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2009 that I had with roasted chicken.

13th Street Gamy Noir Sandstone Old Vines 2009

Great light ruby colour. If you have pinot glasses (big bowl wine glasses) do yourself a favour and use them with Gamay!

Aromas: Very complex nose of rose petals, strawberries, sour cherries, and minerality (sand no less). An evolving nose, changing over time.

Palate: A mix of red fruit, strawberries, raspberries. This wine had bright/strong acidity that was very enjoyable and went really well with the chicken. Later on I began to pick up a milk chocholate on the back end of this Gamay. A very enjoyable wine! 91 Points

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