I was thinking recently about my first two favorite wines, both from V. Sattui (thank you, V. Sattui!). For whites, it was their amazing Muscat. For reds, it was their wonderful Gamay. We’ve all happily seen how Muscat has taken off over the last several decades. But it occurred to me that I’ve never seen Gamay at a winery other than V. Sattui. That prompted me to do some research. I hope you enjoy my findings.
Gamay is THE Grape of Beaujolais
According to Wine-Searcher, “Gamay(Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc in full) is a grape variety that is most famous for producing the light, fruit-driven red wines of Beaujolais… The most famous (and infamous) expression of the grape: Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a wine rushed to consumers on the third Thursday of the November immediately following harvest. These light, translucent wines were traditionally made for vineyard workers but, in the 1970s and 1980s, captured the imagination of wine marketers, who quickly made the wine’s release each year into an occasion.” I’ve heard wonderful stories about people leaping around the streets sipping their Beaujolais Nouveau. I can’t wait to experience this at some point. If you’ve experienced it, please share what it was like.
More About Gamay
Madeleine Puckett of Wine Folly tells us that “Gamay wines are loved for their delicate floral aromas, subtle earthy notes, and surprising ability to pair with food (even fish!).” She says that one of the best benefits of Gamay is its affordable price. She thinks it tastes a lot like Pinot Noir, which happens to be a much more expensive cousin of Gamay. (V. Sattui’s Gamay didn’t taste like a Pinot, probably because it was on the sweeter side.)
Puckett goes on to say that Gamay’s fruit character comes more from the aromas than from the actual taste. So she recommends drinking the wine from a large globe-shaped glass to really experience all of the wine’s aromas.
Puckett talks about flavors of pomegranate, blackberry, violet and earth. The wine is low tannin, high acidity and light bodied.
I distinctly remember it being the perfect wine to accompany the fantastic cheese-forward lunches you can enjoy at V. Sattui.
Gamay Outside of France
Outside of France, the most likely place to find Gamay is Switzerland, where they very often blend the grape with Pinot Noir. The wine is also grown on a limited basis in Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia. And of course by V. Sattui in Napa, California.
A Controversy About the Gamay Grape in California
When I go on V. Sattui’s site, I no longer see Gamay (or, as they called it, Gamay Rouge). On Wine-Search, I found a 2016 V. Sattui bottle for $29. But it’s not available on the V. Sattui site, which seems weird. I left a message for V. Sattui asking them if they’re still producing this wonderful wine. I haven’t heard back. In the meantime, I found on Chowhound an interesting story: “Until the early 2000s Gamay grown in California was the subject of some confusion and debate. Wine previously labeled as Gamay was identified as Valdeguie (an uninspiring French variety), while wine labeled as Gamay Beaujolais was found to be a clone of Pinot Noir. Some true Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc is planted in California, with the best examples coming from cooler regions at higher altitudes.”
I called V. Sattui to find out what grape they use. Virginia reassured me that they use the actual Gamay grape. YAY!
I would love to hear about your experiences with Gamay, especially if they were in France. Merci!
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