Gamay Wines

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007 at 12:00 am

The Gamay grape is believed to have first appeared in the village of the Gamay which is South of Beaune in France. The earliest documented appearances was in the 1360s. The grape was able to bring relief to the various village growers following the weakening of the Black Death during that time. Compared to the Pinot Noir variety, the Gamay ripened two full weeks earlier and was even less difficult to cultivate. This type also produced a robust, fruitier wine with larger abundance.

The Gamay grape variety is purple in color and is the grape variety that is used to make red wines and is most generally grown in the French Beaujolais region. Its full name is Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc and it most probably originated as a mutation of the Pinot Noir. It is quite frankly a very mature cultivar which was already mentioned as early as the 1400s. It has been grown simply because it makes for abundant production rather than the quality of the wine that is made from it.

The wines that are made from the Gamay grape are generally light-bodied and they have a fruity taste to them. They also exhibit tropical flavors and aromas that are reminiscent of bananas. It is meant to be drunk young although there are certain crus (such as the Moulin A Vent) which produce richer wines with slightly more body and aging potential.

The Gamay name has become confusingly attached to other varieties that are grown in California, which at one point in time were thought to be the true Gamay. The grape ‘Napa Gamay has now changed its reputation as Valdeguie and the Napa Gamay will no longer appear on labels after the year 2007. Gamay Beaujolais is believed to an early ripening of the Californian clone of Pinot Noir. Even though they have similar names, the grapes Gamay du Rhone and Gamay St-Laurent are not the same Beaujolais grape but they are the grape "Abouriou" which originates from southwestern France.

The Beaujolais wines which are made entirely from the Gamay grape have a strong craberry aroma and because of that they are easy to identify in blind tasting. The Gamay Noir is a permitted synonym for Gamay in the United States. So far, this is probably one of the few grape varieties that has similar names which utterly confuse the people who enjoy the wine.

The Gamay is probably the most commonly grown grape variety located in the Niagara Peninsula in the country of Canada. There are some producers that are located in St. David’ Bench, Short Hills Bench and Beamsville Bench just to name a few. There is this one producer which actually has a regional clone that they have discovered. Its name is called "Gamay Droit" which is a recognized mutation of the grape variety. It is also grown by a small number of wineries in Australia. This is used for the production of light-bodied wines that people may be able to drink early.