Gamay: the Next Great Grape for Pinot Lovers
Bright and fruity, the Gamay grape is the next big thing for Pinot Noir lovers. The two wines share a lot of similarities, and it's not surprising: Gamay is one of Pinot Noir's many offspring and they reside in neighbouring homes in Central France: Beaujolais and Burgundy. This light bodied, tasty red isn't fussy, rather it's full of vibrant flavours ranging from red berries to lovely floral notes, and framed by a savoury, earthy backbone. It's a delicious, safe bet for Pinot fiends wanting to try something new, but still somewhat familiar. With the added bonus of being less expensive than its parent grape, you can get a hold of a top quality Gamay for much less than a Pinot equivalent.
A Medieval Grape in the Modern World
Gamay has a long history dating back to Medieval France. Originally from Burgundy, today it's almost entirely grown in Beaujolais, located just south of its Burgundian birthplace on the way to the Rhone Valley. Three-quarters of the world's Gamay is grown Beaujolais. However, it is also found in parts of the Loire Valley and is grown in small amounts in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United States.
Gamay is usually made as a red, although you'll find the odd rosé. At home in Beaujolais, there are two major incarnations of Gamay, the still Pinot-esque reds and Beaujolais nouveau. The purple nouveau is fruity, fresh style is meant to be drunk young and is made via carbonic maceration, known as carbonic for short. The process involves fermentation taking place inside the grapes due to high levels of carbon dioxide in the fermentation tanks. This yields outstanding aromas of ripe strawberry, banana, fig, and pear drops. Since the wine doesn't spend as much time in contact with the grape skins, nouveau wines are low in tannins.
Looking for a Gamay with a bit more complexity? Check out Pinot-esque Cru Beaujolais wines, which are premium sub-regions of Beaujolais designated by the local villages and their unique terroirs. Although still available at a fantastic value, wines from the ten Beaujolais crus or villages offer more nuance and ageability. The villages of Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent make powerful wines that can age up to ten years, and if you have a soft spot for elegance, Fleurie's wines are like silk. Drink these the way you would a high-quality Pinot.
Keep it Cool with Gamay
For the incredibly quality and flavour offered by the wines of Beaujolais, they are absurdly affordable. Beaujolais is fantastic with food thanks to its high acid and low tannins. Everything you'd consider pairing with a Pinot will be just as divine with Gamay. This means all sorts of poultry, fatty cuts of meat, a plethora of cheeses, vegetables, and even fish are wonderful with a glass of Gamay. These wines are great contenders for chilled reds when the thermometer starts creeping up; if you've ever questioned whether red wine can be served cool, try it with Gamay and put your doubts to bed. This is a gorgeous picnic wine that easily carries through to dinner, and with its moderate alcohol level, is a no-brainer throughout the week.