This much-maligned grape variety is having a renaissance, thanks to a group of top Burgundy producers who are investing in vineyards within the top Beaujolais crus.
Gamay is a very old Burgundian grape dating back before the 14th century. It is authorized in almost every region of France apart from Bordeaux, Corsica and Alsace but its true home is Beaujolais and to a lesser extent the Loire Valley. Planted originally for quantity rather than quality, much harm was done to the reputation of Gamay by the trend for Beaujolais Nouveau – young wines, rushed onto the market by November and made by carbonic maceration which gave the taste of bananas or bubble gum to the wine.
Today, smart producers are treating Gamay in the same way as the make their Pinot Noir and getting astonishing results. The wines are often aged in oak and show beautiful pure red fruit characteristics with spice, fine tannins and pepper. Of the ten Beaujolais crus, the two most serious ones – Morgon and Moulin à Vent are rivaling village Burgundies in quality.
As a precocious grape variety, Gamay does well in the Loire where it ripens easily in Touraine. It is also to be found around Lyon further upstream where it is used for a number of lesser-known appellations. Gamay is also planted in Germany, Switzerland, England and Canada. Small amounts are used in New World countries such as the USA, Australia and South Africa.
- 2012 Domaine MétratChiroubles Chiroubles0.75l RedBio€9.95 €8.22A perfect wine for summer, when one is after a fruity, supple wine with lots of fruit and acidity. It can be served lightly chilled (around 15°C). It has a lovely aromatic exhuberance with youthful raspberry, blackberry fruit and perfumed violet scents. Smooth and refined on the finish, it makes an excellent match for salads, chicken, grilled fish and light dishes.
- Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Moulin-à-Vent0.75l Red€16.15 €13.35Four parcels of vines which are close to the windmill are used for this cuvée. Two of the parcels have ancient alluvial soils with a pink sands and two have deeper pink granite soils. This cuvée is quite rich and tight, with a bright ruby colour, aromas of rose hips and minerals and a firm, classic structure which builds in the mouth towards a structured finish.
- Les Rouchaux Moulin-à-Vent0.75l Red€18.00 €14.88A 1.2 hectare site runs below the hamlet of Thorins and has subsoils composed of blue granite that run into ancient alluvial soils. This is the most aromatic of the cuvées with lots of red summer fruit character. The first taste is one of crushed raspberries before the wine opens up to reveal very fine, very elegant almost Pinot Noir fruit characteristics.
- Brussellions Moulin-à-Vent0.75l Red€19.80 €16.36A 1.3 hectare site sitting on top of a hill, northeast of Moulin. Here ancient alluvial soils with white sands are complemented by a high percentage of red granite. There is great energy here with spicy fruit and fresh, pure flavours. The wine is long and quite rich with very fine tannin structure. Louis Boillot describes it as the synthesis of the other two cuvées.