Gamay is a purple-colored grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley around Tours. Its full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. It is a very old cultivar, mentioned as long ago as the 15th century. It has been often cultivated because it makes for abundant production; however, it can produce wines of distinction when planted on acidic soils, which help to soften the grape’s naturally high acidity.
Gamay is a very vigorous vine which tends not to root very deeply on alkaline soils resulting in pronounced hydrological stress on the vines over the growing season with a correspondingly high level of acidity in the grapes. The acidity is softened through carbonic maceration, a process that also allows the vibrant youthful fruit expressions reminiscent of bright crushed strawberries and raspberries, as well as deep floral notes of lilac and violets.
Gamay is one of those wines where a large part of the fruit character in the wine is derived from the aromas (and not as much in the taste). It’s a wine that is best served in a large globe-shaped Burgundy glass to collect all the stunning fruity and flowery aromas. Expect to smell fresh cut violets, iris and peony flowers wrapped in cherry, raspberry and plum with subtle background notes of potting soil. On the palate, the wines are light with high acidity and tart flavors of red fruits along with a subtle bitter note on the finish. You’ll find that French Gamay labeled as Beaujolais, is a degree or two more earthy in taste than Gamay from Canada or New Zealand.