Characteristically, Gamay displays flavors of red cherries and strawberries and, when vinified using the carbonic maceration method, boiled sweets and banana. This technique is most often employed for what is arguably the most famous expression of the grape, Beaujolais Nouveau, 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. Unfortunately, Beaujolais Nouveau is a less-than-sterling expression of the variety and Gamay suffers from a somewhat-tarnished reputation as a result.
Happily, Gamay is currently experiencing a comeback of sorts in the form of some of Beaujolais’s other wines, namely those from the 10 villages, or crus, that bear the Beaujolais name. The most famous of these are Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and Morgon, although Chiroubles, Julienas and Brouilly all make excellent examples as well. These are usually vinified traditionally and are often aged in oak; the best can age for up to 10 years.
Outside Beaujolais, Gamay is taken most seriously in Switzerland, where it is often blended with Pinot Noir. There are a few examples from Canada, Italy and New Zealand, and the grape is important to the viticultural landscape of Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia.
Until the early 2000s Gamay grown in California was the subject of some confusion and debate; wine in California 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.
Synonyms include: Gamay Noir, Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc.
Food matches for Gamay include:
- Roast turkey with cranberry sauce
- Grilled salmon fillet with roasted fennel
- Moroccan lamb tagine with apricot