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All About Gamay Wine

Article by Dominic Donaldson

Gamay is a purple grape that is mostly grown in Beaujolais and the Loire Valley in France. Beaujolais wine itself is usually made from the grape, which is low in tannins and has a thin skin.

It is thought that the grape first appeared in the village of Gamay in France as far back as the 1360s where it brought relief to the growers in the village after the Black Death. It was easy to cultivate in comparison with the Pinot Noir grapes of the region, ripening a couple of weeks earlier, and produced strong, fruity wine.

In 1395 however, cultivation of the grape was outlawed in Burgundy by Philippe the Bold who was the Duke of Burgundy, because it was taking up valuable land space that could be used for the Pinot Noir grape.

The Duke really hated the wine that the grape produced, and it was further berated 60 years later by Philippe the Good.

Plantation of the grape on acidic soil helps to soften it and actually ease the grape’s own high acidity.

Today, the only other country that has significant Gamay viticulture is Canada, where it is grown in the Niagara peninsula. The Niagara peninsula is on the same latitude as France, and the wine produced in the region is early-drinking, soft and fruity. The grape is also grown in New World areas such as Australia and South Africa where some winemakers are experimenting with it to make fruity, easy-drinking varieties of wines.

The serious Gamay wines of today however are made in ten special villages within the Beaujolais area of France, including Julienus, Fleurie and Moulin a Vent. Each of these villages produces wine with a character of its own, and characteristics range from rich and smooth to vivacious and light.

We now know that the grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais, an ancient white variety that hailed originally from Central Europe and was likely to have been brought to France by the Romans.

Seventy million litres of Gamay are produced every year, with more than 50 per cent of this being sold as the fruity, easy-drinking Beaujolais. There is a big celebration day held on the third Thursday after the harvesting of the grapes known as Beaujolais day, and it’s worth being in Burgundy for this to enjoy some delicious samples!

As with all alcohol, remember to enjoy this wine responsibly, and stick within the recommended daily allowances of units.

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