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by Staff Writer - B. Scottenberg | April 07, 2011

Gamay is a French red grape variety. It is a light, dry red table wine. Gamay is known for its low tannins, light body and simple flavors. The flavors and aromas of Gamay are floral, cherry, raspberry, pear, spice and strawberry. These wines are light-to-medium bodied wines which are high in acidity, low in tannins and not meant to age. The wines are generally meant to be consumed within two years of bottling. The technique of carbonic Carbonic Maceration (sometimes called "whole grape fermentation”) is quite often used to enhance the fruitiness of this grape. The fruit is placed whole and uncrushed in the fermenting vessel and the fermentation begins within the individual berries, trapping the forming bubbles of carbon dioxide until the grape bursts. The resulting wine has a lighter, yet brighter color and a sweet candy-like quality in the fruity aroma.

Gamay produces red grapes with white juice which are fruity and smooth. The Gamay grape variety does not fare well in light soils. Gamay vineyards can be quite productive, averaging five to seven tons per acre. Crop thinning is often used because heavy crop loads may slow growth to below average, as well as reduce fruit quality. Gamay vineyards begin their annual cycle early with budding and flowering early and may therefore become victim to early spring frosts. Ripening is usually early to mid-season. Both the clusters and juicy grapes of Gamay are large and it is a relatively easy variety to pick, with relatively thin but tough skins. The true full name of this grape is Gamay Noir à Jus Blan.

Gamay grapes have always grown very well in the Beaujolais district of France where they are grown to produce Beaujolais wines. Gamay grapes are best associated with the region of Beaujolais and few regions or grapes are so exclusively intertwined with one another. After being generally rejected by the rest of the Burgundy region in the 14th Century, Gamay found its place further south in the Beaujolais region. In 1395 Phillip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy ordered Gamay vineyards to be removed and he banned the variety forever from being planted in the vineyards of Burgundy. He did not want Gamay vineyards to compete with Pinot Noir. His order nearly eradicated Gamay altogether in the Burgundy region, but luckily it found a new home to the south in Beaujolais.

Gamay is less significantly planted in the Loire, Rhône, Jura and Savoie appellations of France. Beyond France, Gamay can also be found in some areas in Switzerland. Gamay grapes reach near perfection in the grainy soil of the Beaujolais region. Beaujolais Nouveau was the first wine that was made from each year’s harvest. The wine was originally meant for the winery workers but it quickly became popular and spread to local bistros. Today, festivals around the world celebrate the Gamay wines release on the third Thursday in November. Outside of France it is more highly regarded by the Swiss who use it in blends with Pinot Noir. It is also known as Gamay Noir.

Gamay Food Pairing

Gamay is best consumed young, and will benefit from slight chilling. Gamay pairs well with light foods such as turkey, light chicken dishes, salads, light cheeses and fish.

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