What is Gamay Noir
A vibrant, purple grape in the vineyard, Gamay is a thin-skinned variety that prefers granitic soils, which counterbalance the grape’s naturally high acidity. The variety thrives in cool climates, and the grapes tend to ripen early.
Gamay is a juicy grape, with lots of plush fruit flavors on the palate: fresh raspberry and crushed strawberry often dominate, with secondary tones of purple flowers. Wines made with the grape from special sites can also offer earthy tones, with pepper, stone and dried fruit sensations.
Best known for the purple wines it produces in the Beaujolais region of France, Gamay has been grown here since at least the 15th century. Although it gained popularity for its Beaujolais Nouveau, a youthful style of wine produced using carbonic maceration that is released on the third Thursday of November each year, Gamay can also produce more structured, complex selections, especially within the ten crus of Beaujolais. Wines meant for aging are produced by whole-berry maceration, yielding significantly more body.
Besides Beaujolais, Gamay is common in the Tours area of the Loire Valley, though it is often blended with Cabernet Franc to produce a more full-bodied style of wine.
It is also grown in Canada’s Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County, in some areas of Australia and in California.
It has perhaps seen the most success in the New World in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where it was introduced 30 years ago. A significant number of Willamette Valley wineries now produce well-balanced and attractive Gamay wines of depth and unique character.