What is Gamay Wine?
Gamay wine is made from a purple-skinned grape varietal of the same name. Australia has had limited success with Gamay. While the yields are high, climate and soil seem not to suit Gamay in all but a few instances, most notably in Victoria’s High Country region. However, the lack of success hasn’t entirely stifled Australian interest in the varietal. Gamay is often referred to by its French regional name of Beaujolais.
In France, Gamay is planted in significant quantities in Tour in the Loire Valley and most notably in the Beaujolais region north of the city of Lyon. As a grape, Gamay is very acidic and requires specific a fermentation process or soil conditions to soften the naturally acidity.
Gamay and Pinot Noir often come up in conversation together due to their similarities. This should come as a surprise as the two grape varietals are related. Gamay is light-bodied, full of floral aromas and famed for drinking early. End-of-harvest wines from regions produced to drink early are called Beaujolais Nouveau.
Common Gamay Wine characteristics
Gamay and Pinot Noir share some characteristics. Gamay is a delicate wine that is light-bodied. Wine lovers will note fruit-filled aromas of violet, strawberry, pear and raspberry. Gamay has a delicate palate and shares some of the strawberry notes with Pinot Noir.
Pairing food with Gamay Wine
Gamay is a food-friendly wine. Fruit-filled and light on the palate, this is a versatile wine that pairs well with cold meats like ham, chicken or turkey; Beaujolais Nouveau often accompanies Thanksgiving dinners or leftovers in America. Roast chicken or salads are ideal as are classic French dishes like, Duck confit, steak frites (steak and chips) and creamy sauce French dishes.
As with Pinot Noir, a bitey goat’s cheese or feta will pair very well with a Gamay. Cheddar also works well. Gamay’s light touch offers balance to soft, washed-rind cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
Notable Gamay Wine regions
By far the most famous Gamay comes from the Beaujolais region of France. Every year on the third Thursday of November Beaujolais Nouveau is marketed and celebrated around the world. This is a harvest celebration so the wine is young. Fermentation takes only a few weeks. Beaujolais Nouveau is light purple in colour with low tannins. The taste is full of characteristic strawberry with banana and fig.
Although this variety is suitable in cooler regions, it still has a wide distribution in Australia which suggests it is a versatile variety. Gamay can be found in regions like Victoria, Yarra Valley, Southern Tasmania, Hunter Valley and even the Granite Belt in Queensland.
The future of Gamay Wine
Gamay isn’t widely planted in Australia and the wine produced isn’t very popular. However, Australian winemakers have a history of success when they commit to a particular grape or style. While not widely popular, Gamay has a true champion in the Beechworth region in the northeast of Victoria and also with Sorrenberg producing the benchmark Gamay in Australia, encouraging Australian winemakers to follow.
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