I have a secret. The first time I sat with a glass of wine and thought “this is really special, I want to know more about this”; it was a glass of Gamay in a Parisian bar. I was 21 living away from home for the first time and thought it was fragrant, silky and just about as sexy as the fact I was living in the city of romance.
Then I started to learn about wine and Gamay was this grape to be embarrassed about. Yes, in the Beaujolais versions it is made using carbonic maceration, a method which makes it very kirschy, up-front and often simple. A lot of cheap Beaujolais Nouveau had flooded the market at that time and so people came to think of this grape as only achieving very basic, early drinking styles.
But a revolution is on the way, and people are starting to take the lovely Gamay grape seriously. It still produces fragrant, light bodied reds with pleasing cherry fruit but why be ashamed of the easy pleasures in life. And when you take wines made in the top villages of Beaujolais like Fleurie, Morgon or Brouilly, there is a lot more complexity to discover.
Nowadays Pinot Noir from Burgundy has started to be so expensive many more people are coming around to discover these wines as great affordable alternatives. And they can offer you all the charm of a good Burgundy, a Morgon can be powerful, structured and peppery with a granite mineral core; as complex and yet delicate as a good red Burgundy.
Gamay is a thin skinned, light bodied red with high acidity and an inviting floral fragrance. Often semi carbonic maceration is used, a process encloses the un-crushed grapes under carbon dioxide gas in closed tanks to allow them to ferment first inside their berries. That “intra-cellular fermentation” preserves the fruit and gives very soft tannins. Then the rest of the fermentation proceeds traditionally. The end result is aromatic, with fresh cherry fruit character, often with bubble gum and banana notes. The low tannin profile means it is the perfect wine to be chilled. The top village versions can be made more traditionally and therefore have more structure due to extra contact with the skins.
Pinot Noir, Corvina, Zweigelt, Frappato
France: Burgundy, Beaujolais (Fleurie, Morgon, Brouilly, Moulin a Vent, Julienas, St Amour, Chiroubles) Loire Valley, Savoie
Other: Switzerland, Canada, Oregon
Roast turkey, pork escalopes in creamy sauce, schnitzel, tuna, roast beetroot or squash