What is Gamay?

Gamay is a red grape variety from France, whose reputation is inextricably tied to the uneven image of Beaujolais. It is a popular choice for those seeking refreshment over intellectual stimulation.

What does Gamay taste like?

Gamay usually makes relatively light-bodied, refreshing wine characterised by bright, summer pudding flavours with a touch of graphite. When vinified rapidly in a Beaujolais Nouveau style, Gamay is vibrantly fruity but can show unappetising notes of bananas and bubble gum. At the opposite end of the spectrum sits a growing number of more serious wines from specific communes, or crus. These tend to offer a darker, more complex fruit profile with greater depth, structure, and the ability to age a decade or more.

Where is Gamay from?

Gamay is a genetic offspring of Pinot Noir, so very much part of the Burgundian family of grape varieties. It may well take its name from the hamlet of Gamay at the southern end of the Côte d’Or but was banished from the region in the late 14th century, putting down roots in the granite hills of Beaujolais.

Where does Gamay grow?

Gamay plantings are heavily concentrated in France, especially Beaujolais. This early-ripening grape’s other stronghold is the Loire, notably Touraine and Côteaux du Giennois. Gamay also maintains a solid, if lowly presence in Burgundy, where it is blended with Pinot Noir to make Bourgogne Passetoutgrains and accounts for most of the red wine from Mâcon. The variety is also found in the Northern Rhône and Auvergne, as well as Savoie and, just over the border, Switzerland. Gamay’s unfashionable status has hindered its spread abroad, but some is planted in California, Oregon and Canada’s Niagara. The grape has also developed a high quality niche in cooler parts of Australia, while in South Africa Radford Dale is a proud but isolated Gamay champion. The same is true of Te Mata in New Zealand.

Famous Gamay regions:

  • Beaujolais, France
  • Touraine, Loire, France

Anything else?

Gamay’s full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, distinguishing it from several red-fleshed versions.

Our selection of great Gamay

  • Domaine JeanMarc Burgaud, Morgon, Beaujolais
  • Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, Beaujolais
  • Château Thivin, Côte de Brouilly, Beaujolais
  • Te Mata, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

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