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Gamay - Roter Traminer

Gamay - Roter Traminer

Gamay is such an exciting grape and has superb food-matching abilities which few other reds can match.
I would advise anyone who wants to delve deeply into the origins of grapes to look at ‘Wine Grapes’ by Jancis Robinson et al., the most authoritative tome on the subject. It did help my spinning head a little, but not much, as the Traminer/Savagnin family is more complex than the Ewings of Dallas. Roter Traminer is the same wine as Savagnin Rouge, related to the Gelber Traminer (Savagnin Blanc/Heida) and to Gewürztraminer. Roter Traminer is the predominant Traminer variety in Austria. It has low acidity and literally does smell (and taste) of roses along with dried fruit, marshmallows and citrus notes. In colour it ranges from intensely green to intensely yellow or even a glisten of red. When produced from ripe grapes, it produces wines with pronounced aromas that age well.

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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