Gamay is such an exciting grape and has superb food-matching abilities which few other reds can match. Marie-Therese Chappaz' fantastic wines
Gamay is the perfect grape for matching with a traditional Christmas turkey dinner, with all its quintessential yet extraordinary varieties of flavour and textures from cranberry sauce to Brussels sprouts. Where other reds might just as well be water, Gamay maintains its consistency and flavour without overwhelming the flavours of the food.
France is, of course, the main grower of Gamay in the world. The bulk of their Gamay is grown in Beaujolais with some grown in the Loire valley. Far too many people in the UK dismiss Beaujolais out of hand, but if you are here you are probably not one of them. What pleasure they are missing, as the Beaujolais Crus regularly demonstrate. We have examples from every Cru and they are all worth exploring.
In Switzerland it is the second most grown grape behind Pinot Noir with which it is often blended, especially in Valais, to make the traditional Dôle blend or the less popular but equally interesting Goron blend. There are, of course, many single variety Gamay wines from Switzerland, both red and rosé. In Switzerland it reaches a complexity and ripeness that Loire or Beaujolais can rarely approach. The rosé is also fascinating as the Swiss are not as fond of high acidity as the French and so produce rosé wines which are far softer than their neighbours versions. The difference between Beaujolais Villages rosé, Anjou-Gamay rosé and Gamay de Satigny rosé has to be tasted to be believed. All are good examples of the grape but so different from each other.
Historically, Gamay seems to have had a bad name which is evidenced in its first mention when, in 1395, orders were given to destroy all the vines of this grape as the wine was, apparently, causing serious disease! Subsequently there were banning orders for the planting of Gamay in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Luckily for us, it survived all these assassination attempts and lives on to produce some of the world’s finest wines.
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Origins and Connections
The origins of this grape are not without debate. It most likely began in north east France and south west Germany, though some believe that it is from Egypt and others, with no botanical proof, say that it is not from Vitis Vinifera but from Vitis Aminea or even other strains of Vitis.
Heida is the parent or grandparent of an impressive line-up of offspring, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Silvaner, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner, Verdelho and Traminette, among many others. It is related to Pinot but the parent/offspring relationship cannot be defined.
In Switzerland it is grown only in the Valais, principally in the vineyards around Visperterminen at an altitude of some 1100 metres above sea level, where the Föhn, a warm southerly wine, helps ripen the grapes. This is a truly old variety. The first written records date from 1586 when it was referred to as "Heyda", but it has been in use much longer. Indeed, the name Heida itself is local patois for "ancient" or "from an earlier time" and the French name "Païen" descends from "Pagan", i.e. before Christianity.
Plantings today are still limited with just some 15 hectares in commercial production. In the vineyard, Heida's grapes are small and compact and are yellowish and aromatic. It ripens mid-season, later than Chasselas, but before Petite Arvine. Heida makes, in my view, some of the best Valaisan white wines which can be complex and powerful, with exotic fruit flavours including quince. Heida ages quite well and should last 5 years without problems. They can also be versatile when food matching, going well with many vegetable dishes, cold meats and fish.
Most Traminer in Austria is either Roter Traminer or Gewurtztraminer. There is, however, a rare grape called Gelber Traminer. Do not expect to find any Traminer on our website. Have a look at the details for each wine and see what it really is!