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 associate Beaujolais with their Nouveau only and dismiss the area out of hand as producing thin, acidic, insipid wine. 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, single variety Gamay wines from Switzerland, both red and rosé. The rosé is particularly 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. They are all perfect on a warm summer’s evening.
Gamay is such an exciting grape and has superb food-matching abilities which few other reds can match. It 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.
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.