Wine Knowledge – Gamay (Beaujolais)

Every November enterprising restaurants and bars cash in on Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday in November. Such has been the success of this marketing jamboree that around a third of the grapes end up in Nouveau.

It’s worth seeking out the non-Nouveau variants, they make a pleasant change on a balmy evening, being light and easy drinking.

Gamay grape

Snubbed by most growers in the world, the humble Gamay grape is nurtured in the province of Beaujolais, part of Burgundy, just north of Lyon, France’s third largest city. It produces light red wines, easy to drink with strawberry and cherry flavours.

Nouveau (Primeur)

The wine is ready to drink when it’s only about 8 weeks old, if you can be patient, it will be better left until Christmas. Whole berries are fermented in what’s known as carbonic maceration. The process happens quickly and minimises tannin levels. Quality varies from year to year. Unlike most reds, the wines improved through slight chilling.

North and South

The South of the region, produces modestly priced, easy drinking Beaujolais A.C. mostly drunk young. It gets more selective in the North, giving us the slightly superior Beaujolais Villages A.C. and the single village Crus of which Fleurie is the easiest to find in the UK. The Superieur appellation is stronger.

Other areas

Small volumes of Gamay grow in other French regions and in a few pockets of the New World. California’s Napa Gamay is in fact a different variety Valdigue.


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