Curious to know everything about the versatile Gamay wine before buying one?
A delicious red wine, known for its lively flavors and sensual aromatics, Gamay has found its best expression in France’s Beaujolais region - just south of Burgundy.
Gamay’s easy-going character makes it the perfect drink for every occasion - be it a brunch with friends or a special Thanksgiving dinner.
In this article, you’ll discover everything about Gamay - its colorful history, beautiful wine regions, taste and characteristics, and the best Gamay wines in 2021.
We’ll also show you a super-easy way to invest in fine wine.
This Article Contains
- How Is Gamay Wine Made?
- Taste And Characteristics Of Gamay Wine
- How to Serve and Store Gamay Wine
- Best Gamay Wines To Buy In 2021 (Including Tasting Notes, Pricing)
- 2010 Yvon Metras Fleurie Cuvee l'Ultime, Beaujolais, France
- 2005 Yvon Metras Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
- 2017 Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon 'Cuvee 3.14', Beaujolais, France
- 2011 Yvon Metras Moulin-a-Vent, Beaujolais, France
- 2015 Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent 'Moulin-a-Vent' Clos de Londres Chateau, Beaujolais, France
- 2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent Les Vignes Centenaires, Beaujolais, France
- 2012 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-a-Vent Chassignol, Beaujolais, France
- 2019 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Gamay, Burgundy, France
- 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-a-Vent Les Michelons, Beaujolais, France
- 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Fleurie La Chapelle des Bois, Beaujolais, France
A Quick Intro To Gamay
Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc (not to confuse it with a red grape Gamay Teinturier) is a dark-skinned grape that produces light to medium-bodied red wine with lively acidity and low tannin levels.
The Gamay grape is believed to be a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc - the reason why its floral aromas and subtle earthy notes are often compared to that of Pinot Noir.
Having originated in Burgundy, the grape is predominantly grown in the Beaujolais region of France, while smaller quantities are grown in North America and other regions.
The grape prefers granitic soils that balance its naturally high acidity. Its best expression is found in cool climate regions (like France), where the grape tends to ripen early.
The most popular Gamay wine is a light fruit-forward wine, Beaujolais Nouveau.
First, let’s take a quick look at the origin of this grape variety.
A Brief History Of Gamay
The Gamay grape first appeared in the village of Gamay in the 14th century after the Black Death epidemic. It brought relief to the local growers as it was easier to harvest than Pinot Noir.
In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy banned Gamay’s cultivation, labeling the grape “disloyal and harsh.” As Pinot Noir established predominance in Burgundy, Gamay settled its roots in the Beaujolais region.
Seeing the success of Beaujolais wines, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine created 10 Beaujolais crus with the best terroir for cultivating the grape.
But local winemakers started taking advantage of Gamay’s popularity. In the 1950s, they started using chaptalization, excessive sulfur, and artificial yeasts to pump out more wines.
It reduced the quality of the wine, and by the 1980s, the wine’s reputation took a hit.
To counter this excessive manipulation, four Beaujolais winemakers - Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean Foillard, and Jean-Paul Thenevet (the “Gang of Four”) came together to rebuild Gamay’s reputation.
With the support of Kermit Lynch (an American wine importer), they started producing rich, terroir-driven Beaujolais wines through traditional practices.
Thanks to them, Beaujolais’ Gamay started gaining the attention it deserves, and today, the region is the world’s largest Gamay wine producer.
Gamay Wine Regions
Although Gamay is originally from France, today, it is grown across the globe. The significant Gamay wine regions are:
The birthplace of the grape variety, France remains the largest producer of Gamay wines.
Even though Gamay is grown in various French wine regions as a blending grape, it’s settled its roots in two major regions - Beaujolais and the Loire Valley.
Gamay’s spiritual home, Beaujolais, produces around 75% of the world's Gamay wine.
Beaujolais has ten crus that produce high-quality fruit-forward Gamay wines that are often compared to the delicate Pinot Noir of Burgundy. These Beaujolais crus are:
- Cote de Brouilly
Beaujolais also produces several Beaujolais Village wines that come from the land surrounding the crus. The light and fruity Beaujolais Village wines have subtle spicy nuances.
If you’re looking for an easy-drinking red wine, then Beaujolais Village is a great choice.
Beaujolais is also home to the delicious light bodied red wine ‘Beaujolais Nouveau.’ It is produced from the fruit of the alkaline soil of Southern Beaujolais using a unique winemaking technique, carbonic maceration.
The wine is released on the third Thursday of November every year. The locals celebrate it as the ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day.’
Gamay is also grown widely in the north of Beaujolais in Mâconnais.
B. The Loire Valley
The Gamay grape loves the cool temperature and granitic soils of the Loire Valley - the reason why Gamay vineyard plots are found across the region.
Similarly, it is also grown in Touraine (for monovarietal red wines) and the Upper Loire appellations of Cheverny, Coteaux du Vendômois, and Coteaux du Giennois.
2. The United States
The Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc grape variety, has gained extensive popularity in the United States in the past few decades.
It was first introduced in the Willamette Valley of Oregon - a Pinot Noir wine region. Rebecca’s Vineyard was one of the first vineyards to sell Gamay grapes.
Over the years, the Oregon wine has gained significant attention for its cherry flavor and ample freshness. This Oregon wine has an intense fruit flavor with bright acidity.
In fact, the region’s Gamay Noir wines even have a festival dedicated to it - the ‘I Love Gamay’ festival, held in Portland.
Besides Willamette Valley, Some Gamay vineyard plots are also found in the upper regions of California.
In Canada, most of the vineyard plots of this grape variety are found in the Niagara Peninsula.
Outside the Niagara Peninsula, Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc is also grown in small quantities in the Short Hills Bench, Beamsville Bench, St. David’s Bench, and Prince Edward County.
Canadian Gamay wines are light to medium-bodied with red fruit flavors of sour cherry, raspberry, and red currant, and high acidity. It is also commonly produced as a varietal or blended rose wine.
Canada also has a regional mutation of the grape ‘Gamay Noir Droit.’
4. Other Gamay Wine Regions
Gamay wines are also produced in Australia, Switzerland (where it is often blended with Pinot Noir), Italy, New Zealand, Croatia, Kosovo, and Serbia.
Let’s see how Gamay wine gets its delicious flavors.
How Is Gamay Wine Made?
Gamay wines (especially Beaujolais cru) are made using a special winemaking technique called carbonic maceration. Carbonic maceration helps extract the color of the grape without much tannin - resulting in a light, fruity, and refreshing wine.
Here’s what happens.
- The winemaker starts carbonic maceration by fermenting whole bunches of grapes in large vats sealed with carbon dioxide gas.
- When the wine reaches 2% ABV levels, the berries burst. At the same time, the grapes at the top of the vat start gently pressing the grapes beneath them, releasing the juice.
- This is when the winemaker adds yeast to complete fermentation - successfully ending the carbonic maceration process.
Some winemakers use semi-carbonic maceration instead of carbonic maceration in their Gamays. Here, the winemaker uses ambient yeasts that naturally produce Carbon Dioxide during fermentation to promote carbonic maceration.
Taste And Characteristics Of Gamay Wine
Gamay is a dry, light to medium-bodied wine with a low tannin level and 10-11.5% ABV levels. Its medium to high acidity gives it a refreshing mouthfeel.
In general, Gamay wines have red fruit flavor (like sour cherry, raspberry, red currant, and strawberry) with notes of purple flowers. Gamay, made from carbonic maceration, has a bubble gum and banana flavor.
A well-made Gamay wine, like the Beaujolais cru, will also have a distinct minerality and earthy and spicy notes.
Warm-climate Gamay wines have a concentrated black fruit flavor.
How To Serve And Store Gamay Wine
To get the best of Gamay’s flavors, serve this red wine around 54oF (12oC) in a globe-shaped Burgundy glass. A wide Burgundy glass will help open the wine, and you’ll be able to taste the subtle spicy nuances.
The ideal temperature to store a Gamay wine is 50oF - 55oF (10oC - 13oC.)
And what do you serve it with?
Food Pairings With Gamay Wine
The high acidity and low tannin levels of Gamay wine make it food-friendly. You can pair your Gamay with a wide array of foods, including roast chicken dishes, grilled fish, and aged cheese.
Now let’s see which are the best Gamay wines you should consider for that special upcoming celebration.
Best Gamay Wines To Buy In 2021 (Including Tasting Notes, Pricing)
Here are some of the best Gamay wines you should try.
1. 2010 Yvon Metras Fleurie Cuvee l'Ultime, Beaujolais, France
Produced by the leading Beaujolais winemaker Yvon Metras, this Gamay is admired for its rich, fruity taste.
It has a complex floral nose with red fruit (cranberry), truffle, and dark plum aromas. On the palate, the wine showcases a perfect balance of dark fruit flavors and acidity.
Price of 2010 Yvon Metras Fleurie Cuvee l'Ultime, Beaujolais, France: $275
2. 2005 Yvon Métras Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
Another delicious red by the famous Beaujolais winemaker, this Gamay gives off black cherry, spice, stem, smoke, and classic banana aromas. The palate is soft with refreshing acidity.
Price of 2005 Yvon Métras Fleurie, Beaujolais, France: $290
3. 2017 Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon 'Cuvée 3.14', Beaujolais, France
This Gamay varietal has a mineral backbone with exotic spicy notes of black pepper and cinnamon and a rustic acidity on the palate.
Price of 2017 Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon 'Cuvée 3.14', Beaujolais, France: $107
4. 2011 Yvon Métras Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France
This light and fruity Beaujolais wine makes a perfect gift for red wine lovers.
The nose has a subtle fruity aroma of boysenberry, red fruit (mostly raspberry), and black cherry. On the palate, you’ll notice smoky black pepper flavor and bright acidity.
Price of 2011 Yvon Métras Moulin-à-Vent, Beaujolais, France: $133
5. 2015 Château du Moulin-a-Vent 'Moulin-a-Vent' Clos de Londres Château, Beaujolais, France
A lively fruity wine, this 2015 has a Pinot Noir texture.
It has mint, spice, banana, and leather scents on the nose, while the palate has a ripe dark fruit flavor. The wine has a fine tannin with refreshing acidity.
Price of 2015 Château du Moulin-a-Vent 'Moulin-a-Vent' Clos de Londres Château, Beaujolais, France: $89
6. 2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent Les Vignes Centenaires, Beaujolais, France
This Beaujolais wine has a pure aroma of savory herbs and red fruit and a beautiful sensual bouquet. On the palate, the wine is light but concentrated with lively acidity.
Price of 2012 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent Les Vignes Centenaires, Beaujolais, France: $85
7. 2012 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-a-Vent Chassignol, Beaujolais, France
The 2012 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-a-Vent Chassignol has subtle Pinot Noir fruit flavors.
The dominant fruity aroma includes black cherry, red cherry, and dark plum. The palate has a strong tart flavor and a bright acidity like Pinot Noir wines.
Price of 2012 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-a-Vent Chassignol, Beaujolais, France: $78
8. 2019 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Gamay, Burgundy, France
A fruity Gamay wine, the nose of the 2019 Burgundy vintage gives off a red cherry, red currant, and black currant aroma. This light bodied red wine has a subtle tart flavor with lively acidity.
Price 2019 Domaine Leroy Bourgogne Gamay, Burgundy, France: $66
9. 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-à-Vent Les Michelons, Beaujolais, France
The nose of this Gamay wine has concentrated black currant and plum fruit aromas. A lively acidity dominated the palate balanced by a dark fruit finish.
Price of 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Moulin-à-Vent Les Michelons, Beaujolais, France: $73
10. 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Fleurie La Chapelle des Bois, Beaujolais, France
This 2010 Beaujolais vintage is one of its kind. Its pure fruity notes and seductive aromas win the heart of wine lovers.
The nose gives off almond extract, rowan, freesia, and black currant aroma. On the palate, you notice a silky texture, deep plum flavor, and mineral nuances.
Price of 2010 Domaine Jules Desjourneys Fleurie La Chapelle des Bois, Beaujolais, France: $67
Does Gamay Wine Age Well?
The exceptional Beaujolais cru vintage wines take up to 10 years to reach their peak. But most of the fruity Gamay wines (like Beaujolais Nouveau) are meant to be drunk within 1-3 years of their release.
This light-bodied red wine is a perfect drink to have with your meal, but when it comes to investing, you may want to look for other age-worthy alternatives.
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Sip A Delicious Gamay Wine (While You Build A Wine Portfolio!)
Red wine lovers around the world love the mouthwatering flavors of Gamay wine. This light and fruity red is perfect to sip on while enjoying your delicious dinner.
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