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Delightfully playful yet at its best capable of impressive gravitas...
Delightfully playful yet at its best capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-flavored wines in Beaujolais and parts of the Loire Valley. It has received some criticism for its role in Beaujolais Nouveau, a young beverage more reminiscent of fruit punch than wine. But make no mistake—the Gamay grape is very capable of producing light yet serious wines, especially in the cru villages of Beaujolais. The variety is also widely planted in Savoie and Switzerland, and has recently found success on a small but growing scale in Oregon.
In the Glass
Gamay can be decidedly light and fruity with flavors cherry candy and cranberry. Made for Beaujolais Nouveau, with a quick fermentation process, the wines give fun and flirty aromas of banana or bubblegum. The Nouveau style is to drink early and not contemplate. More complex Gamays (Village or cru level) offer dark blackberry or ripe cherry flavors with enticing aromas of baking spice, violets and dark wet earth as well as aging potential.
Gamay is delicious on its own, especially with a light chill. It is the quintessential picnic red and goes well with simple charcuterie, country pate, and terrines. Served at a cool temperature, it is an unexpected but outstanding partner for freshly shucked oysters. Gentle tannins and bright acidity make it a great option with Asian food, even dishes with a bit of a spicy kick. Gamay can also be a great pairing with poultry, especially duck or Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry sauce.
Within Beaujolais, there are ten different crus, or highly ranked grape-growing communes. Each one has its own distinct personality—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant, and Morgon is serious, structured, and age-worthy, capable of rivaling some red Burgundies.