Wine 101 – Introduction to Gamay

Gamay Grapes

Gamay Grapes

The Gamay grape has a history dating back to approximately 1360, and it is thought to have first appeared in the Village of Gamay, it’s namesake. It’s nearly synonymous with Beaujolais, the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in which it is most abundantly produced. What does all that mean? Well, The short two minute video here tries to explain a little bit about the grape, the styles of wine you can expect from Gamay grapes, and the main geography it is produced in.

There are several regions, or appellations, of Beaujolais, and each produces a different style and quality of wine made from Gamay grapes. The Beaujolais AOC is considered the first quality tier, and is likely what you think of when you have Beaujolais Nouveau each November. Beaujolais wines are meant to drink soon after bottling, and are typically fruit forward and easy drinking. They also, perhaps, have a bad reputation of being too simple and barely a step up from sweetened fruit juice. While masterful marketing in the 1980s has made Beaujolais Nouveau a wine people anticipate each year, it has also perhaps hurt the reputation of a grape that could produce great wines.

The next step up in quality is Beaujolais-Villages (Vill-ah-zche). While the wines produced here are also meant to be consumed young, like Beaujolais, they typically have lower yields, or smaller crops, which in turn produce more intense grapes and a smaller amount of more intense wines. There is not, typically, a tremendous price difference between wines from Beaujolais vineyards versus Beaujolais-Villages, and trying wines from each area will help understand the differences and similarities.

Finally, there are the ten Cru Beaujolais regions, each with it’s own characteristics that are imparted upon the wine, and can be broken into three categories. The Cru’s that make the lightest style of wine includes Brouilly, the largest Cru, Regnie, which was upgraded from a Beajolais-Villages are in 1988, and Chiroubles. The Cru Beaujolais producing medium bodied wine, which some experts recommend at least a year of bottle aging before approaching, include Cote de Brouilly, Fleuire, and Saint-Amour. Finally, the four Cru’s that typically produce the fullest bodied wines are Chenas, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-a-Vent.It’s difficult to summarize each of the Cru’s, so I’ll expand on them in future posts.

Now you have an opportunity to add your thoughts! While I mentioned cheeses like Munster, Emmental, and Brie, as well as chicken or turkey, I barely covered foods that pair well with Gamay, or Beaujolais. What are some of your favorite food and Gamay wine pairings? After watching the video and reading the post, leave a comment below. I’m curious your take on Gamay, Beaujolais, and related topics.

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6 thoughts on “Wine 101 – Introduction to Gamay

  1. I think you did a fine job on providing the basics of Gamay. Its a wine I have very little experience with, so I found this short video pretty informative. I look forward to the next installments where we can see the wine in action with food.

    Josh @nectarwine on Twitter

  2. Thanks Josh. Gamay isn't a grape that I have on my “Favorites” list – so I really had to get my head around discussing it. I wanted to give some basic information – without sounding biased! I also know there's SO much more information about Gamay, with it popping up in Willamette Valley as well as Slovenia. I just couldnt cover it all in under 5 minutes. A few friends IM/DMed me questions like “How much do wines from Beaujolais cost in comparison to Cru Beaujolais” and “Of the 10 different Cru Beaujolais, how do they differ not in just body, but taste, price, etc.” Great questions – i wish they asked them in comments :)

    I'll try to answer those questions in tonight's Wine Blogging Wednesday post – where i put up a short but hopefully coherent review of Domaine Ruet Chiroubles, a Cru Beaujolais. And if not – ii'll come back here and discuss!!

  3. Not a big fan of the fruity taste of these type of wines. IF memory serves me correct, I think salty foods go well? My husband and his family are always eating sausage type stuff, prosciutto, those type of foods?
    Great, informative segment. I need to go back and reread to digest all the info. Very educational and so good to know. I need to brush up on this stuff lol!

  4. I don't know if you saw my other post on Cru Beaujolais, made from Gamay grapes. I did indeed admit it's not my favorite! You, and your husband's family, are right on, that sausage type stuff (cold cuts) go well! Some pate, perhaps!

    Thanks for the visit – and I'm looking for to hearing about your trip to France this summer!


  5. I am not a fan of Beajolais either. I have tried a few and have decided to give it up. I call it “Wine for Children” since it tastes like Kool-aid. Under normal circumstances, I love Kool-Aid but not when I'm drinking wine.

    I didn't get a chance to watch the video but I definitely like the new blog format. Short and sweet and easy to read. Good job Matt!

    PS The only thing I know about Beajolais is that it's made through carbonic maceration. Please don't ask me what that means.

  6. Beuajolais Nouveau is definitely that cool-aid you think of. Beaujolais-Villages, and Cru Beaujolais are big steps up, in my opinion. They are still not my favorite, but not bad. I did, however, have some gamay, the grape that is predominant in wines from the Beaujolais regions, that rocked. I'll post more on that later.

    Carbonic maceration, in quick summery, is when they cause the fermentation to occur inside of the uncrushed grape. Typically they crush it and the fermentation occurs in the juice. I can post a little on it in the future.


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