Grape Varieties: Gamay Wines
Gamay wine has its spiritual home in Beaujolais, a region south of Burgundy where ten villages can name the Gamay wine they make after the village. These villages "crus" are St.Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly. All of these make Gamay wine and it is the terroir and microclimate of each particular village which generates the different style of Beaujolais that comes from each village.
On the whole Gamay wines are fresh and lively reds with cherry fresh fruit varying in depth from sprightly Chiroubles and Regnie through lush Fleurie to brooding Moulin-a-Vent and its fuller bodied cousins Morgon and Chenas. Gamay wines made outside these villages but still within the Beajolais region may be labelled as either Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages.
Whilst Gamay wine is made outside Beaujolais in areas such as Cotes Roannaise (where Robert Serol makes a brilliant example) and the banks of the Loire river near Touraine. Gamay wine is not widely seen outside France.
Gamay produces straightforward, light red wines which tend to be at their best when young where their pinkish/purple colour, relatively modest alcohol are perfect for reds of charming character. Gamay wines are light in tannin but tend to have good acidity which means they go well with food (Beaujolais as an accompaniment to baked ham would be ideal for example).
Gamay wine if frequently made using a method known as macération carbonique where the grapes are crushed in whole bunches in a sealed tank with the enzymes in the grapes doing some of the work of the yeasts. As the fermentation develops the pressure of the carbon dioxide that results increases the pressure inside the tank, crushing more grapes etc etc. The effect of all this is that the grapes are crushed in the gentlest way possible (with air pressure) enhancing the fruity characteristics and toning town the tannic elements in the resulting wines.
For an example of Gamay wine at its best there really is only one place to look, and that is Beaujolais. Visit your local independent wine merchant who will almost certainly carry a basic Beaujolais wines and/or a Beaujolais Villages as well as options from some of the village crus. Fleurie is the one most people know (which as a result tends to be amongst the most expensive) but take advice from the merchant and give Gamay wine a try.
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