Erin Doman on March 1, 2016 0 Comments Gamay is a purple grape that is used to produce light-bodied red wines, predominantly in the Beaujolais and Loire Valley regions of France. Connoisseurs love these wine grapes because of their floral aromas, earthy notes and versatility. Additionally, Beaujolais wines–the wine made from gamay grapes–are much more affordable than their cousin, Pinot Noir. Gamay-based wine is also produced in many locations around the world, including Oregon, the Valle d’Aosta region of Italy, the Niagara Penninsula of Canada, the La Cote area in Switzerland and New Zealand. History of Gamay Though Beaujolais is popular today, this wasn’t the case during the late 14th century. The Duke of Burgundy disliked it so much, he declared it to be “despicable and disloyal”. This gave rise to Pinot Noir. In the region south of Burgundy, winemakers continued to cultivate the grape. Today there are many different types of red Beaujolais wines. They include the well-known standard wines, which include Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Nouveau. In the 1930s, the French appellation governing board created ten “Crus”, or wine areas on the best terroir of the region. Today there are ten Crus of Beaujolais Superieur, which have been produced at a high level of quality with a distinct set of characteristics. The Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent are the best-rated vintages in the region. Beaujolais Flavors Beaujolais wine is known for its vivid aroma and earthy tone. Its character comes alive when you smell its bouquet. You can expect to detect fresh cut violets, iris and peonies with a hint of cherry, plum, raspberry and banana. Subtle notes of potting soil form a backdrop to its sweet and flowery flavors. The wine has a light acidity combined with the tartness of red fruits. There is the hint of a bitter finish. The French version of this wine is earthier than its relatives from across the sea. Making the Wine Most red Beaujolais wines are made using the carbonic maceration method. Whole bunches of gamay grapes are placed in fermentation tanks. The grapes at the bottom of the vessel become crushed, which starts the fermentation process. The grapes at the upper levels of the tank become saturated in carbon dioxide, which produces intra-cellular fermentation, causing them to burst. After four to eight days, the juice is extracted and the remaining liquid is pressed out of the skins. The juices are combined and left to complete the fermentation process. The biochemical fermentation that occurs inside the grape creates the unique banana aroma in the finished wine. Gamay Food Pairings Beaujolais has a high natural acidity and a low level of tannins, which is why it works well with a wide variety of foods. In fact, this wine is a favorite with Thanksgiving dinner. The lighter Beaujolais Nouveau is often used as an apértif, while the fuller-bodied Crus are ideal with red meat and stews. Here are some food pairings that work especially well: Meat: Roast chicken, chicken tagine with apricots and olives, pork sausages, duck with plum sauce, hangar steak, grilled steak, meat loaf Seafood: Grilled salmon, roasted cod, sushi, fried calamari, Cajun shrimp Cheese: Chèvre, Neufchâtel, brie, cream cheese, Swiss, Gruyère, Monterey Jack Herbs and Spices: Herbs de Provence, shallot, chive, leek, sage, mint, caraway, clove, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, mustard, fennel, anise Vegetable: Roasted potatoes, onion rings, spinach salad, beets, red quinoa, capers, acorn squash, cranberry sauce, walnuts, pecans, portabello mushroom Serving the Wine This fruity wine is best enjoyed when it is slightly chilled, around 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Since most kitchen refrigerators are colder, remove the wine well before you intend to serve it. It is preferred that you use a wine refrigerator to chill your Beaujolais, if you have access to one. It is not necessary to decant Beaujolais before serving. Burgundy glasses are typically used for lighter, full-bodied wines such as Beaujolais. They have full, round bowls that allow you to dip your nose into the glass and detect the wine’s aroma. The larger bowl also gives the wine a larger surface area so more of the liquid can come into contact with the air. The opening of the glass is designed to direct the wine to the tip of your tongue so you can savor its delicate, fruity flavors. Storing Wine If you would like to store this wine, keep it between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too high, the wine will age too quickly, causing it to lose flavor and balance. Alternatively, cold temperatures will diminish its flavor and aromas. If the temperature fluctuates, the cork can become damaged, which will cause the wine to spoil. Beaujolais Nouveau wines should be consumed within six months of production. Their low levels of tannin make them more suitable for drinking than long-term storage. Fuller-bodied Crus can be kept for longer periods of time. They should be enjoyed within two to eight years of their vintage date. Shopping for Wine The vast range of Beaujolais wines create a number of buying opportunities. At the high end of the scale are the Cru Beaujolais, which are the most aromatic and full-bodied wines of the region. These are moderately affordable, in the $20 range. For something lighter, Beaujolais Villages offers more value with prices around $10. Beaujolais Nouveau, which is bottled at the beginning of the fall season, is also available in the lower price range. If you are interested in the gamay grape, you will probably want to try different varieties of Beaujolais. Fortunately, this is a low risk proposition. If a particular bottle doesn’t tickle your fancy, use the leftover wine in your next batch of Sangria! It is superb! Give it a Try If you are interested in trying one of the varieties of this wine, you are in for a treat. Even the experts continue to share their excitement! Jared Hooper, the wine director at Los Angeles’ Faith and Flower, stated, “It’s wilder, it’s different, it’s got an extra button unbuttoned, and it’s loud. It’s brash, it’s less refined, but it’s true.” Mariel Wega, the sommelier at Philadelphia’s a.kitchen + bar says the wines are “probably the most versatile reds I can think of with food. They’re approachable and consistent yet expressive and complex, totally over delivering for the price.” Whether you are enjoying a gourmet meal or sitting outside on a warm summer’s day, the gamay grape has something in store for you. Open a bottle and savor the experience!