Wine Culture and Information - Volume 13
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Gamay

Traditionally associated with Beaujolais wines and in particular with Nouveau wines, Gamay is also used in other countries of the world for the production of monovarietals and assembled wines

 In most of the cases, mentioning Gamay grape means recalling to the mind of consumers the image of the joyous wine produced at Beaujolais with the carbonic maceration technique and called Beaujolais Nouveau or Beaujolais Primeur. This wine is commercialized from the third Thursday of November, a date which probably sees the peak of higher interest for wines produced with Gamay and which lasts - more or less - all wintertime long. The interest for Beaujolais Nouveau is such as it concentrates the attention of consumers while having other wines produced with Gamay almost forgotten. It should also be recognized that Gamay - as opposed to other renowned French grapes - is not very spread in the world and despite it is also being used for the production of other wines - monovarietals as well as assembled - its notoriety is still today strongly associated to nouveaux wines.

 The indisputable homeland of Gamay is Beaujolais - the renowned wine area located in the southern part of Bourgogne, France - where it is used for the production of every red wine, both for nouveau produced with the carbonic maceration method, as well as for red wines produced with the typical enological techniques. Perhaps its wide use in the production of nouveau wines and the lack of a high structure have limited its spreading in the world, probably shadowed by the strength and prestige of other French grapes, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed wines produced with Gamay are not that longeval when compared to the other renowned grapes: in fact the low content in tannins does not allow long aging times in bottle. Nevertheless - even though shyly - Gamay spread in other areas of the world and - in particular - in the neighboring Italy where it is sometimes used for the production of monovarietal wines. This is the case of Umbria and in particular of the Colli del Trasimeno DOC area, in which Gamay is present since more than one century and used alone for the production of interesting wines.


A bunch of Gamay
A bunch of Gamay

 According to the witnesses of authors of the past, Gamay is a grape originating from the homonymous village in Bourgogne, not far from Chassagne and Puligny. Despite its place of origin is known, it is not possible to tell when its cultivation for wine making began in Bourgogne, however it is certain that from this area it first spread in the central and northern areas of France and then in other European countries. The first historical citation about Gamay is dated back to 1395, a period in which it is believed this grape was very common and widely cultivated in Bourgogne. In that year the duke of Bourgogne - Philippe the bold - issued a decree which forced viticulturists to uproot Gamay from their vineyards because its wines were considered of low quality. Despite this decree remained in force for many years, some viticulturists of the area were successful in saving some plants of Gamay therefore avoiding its extinction and its was right in this period Gamay reached the hills of Beaujolais. Thanks to the better environmental and meteorological conditions of Beaujolais, the quality of Gamay was widely revaluated.

 The name Gamay was frequently used for referring to other grape varieties which in past have been confused with the real Gamay, many of them were considered as Gamay only because of their high coloring capacity both because of the skin and the pulp. This kind of grapes - in France classified as teinturiers - are generally used for adding color to pale and transparent wines but have no connection with the real Gamay. This allowed the spreading, both in France and in other countries of the world, of other varieties and which have always been confused with the real Gamay, such as in case of Blaufränkisch that in some countries of Eastern Europe is confused with Gamay. The only and genuine Gamay has pretty different qualities from the other varieties confused with this grape and whether it is true its coloring capacity is pretty high, the color of the pulp is absolutely pale. This characteristic also determines the origin of its complete name - adopted in order to make things clear in the confusion - and that corresponds to Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, the variety cultivated in Bourgogne at Beaujolais.

 According to a cultural point of view, Gamay is a pretty early ripening variety which tends to sprout and ripe in advance. For this reason it is pretty sensitive to spring frosts, however it is a variety which can be adapted very well in cool climate areas. Gamay easily tends to overproduction - probably a characteristic which did not allow its spreading in the production of quality wines - therefore it needs strict cultural practices in order to give good wines. The best results with Gamay are obtained in granitic and schist soils, whereas in soils rich in limestone it gives wines with more intense colors and less transparent and with more ordinary organoleptic qualities and finesse. Gamay does not contain high quantities of tannins, however its acidity is pretty high - a quality which can be well perceived during tasting - and its wines generally have an average alcohol percentage. Wines produced with Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc are usually consumed within few years and their aging rarely goes beyond two or three years, a period in which they can keep their freshness and their strong fruity character. It is good to remember the longevity of wines produced with Gamay by using the carbonic maceration technique - new wines and Beaujolais Nouveau - is very limited and it is suggested to drink them within six months from release.

 

The Colors of Gamay

 Gamay wines generally produce intense ruby red colors and evident purple and even blue nuances. Transparency in these wines is to be considered as average, a quality which however depends on the cultural techniques and yields, as well as the production area. The color of Gamay also depends on the type of soil in which it was cultivated. Wines produced with Gamay cultivated in soils rich in limestone tend to show more intense colors, whereas grapes coming from granitic and schist soils - more suited for the production of quality Gamay - give less intense colors. A special consideration should be done for wines produced with the carbonic maceration technique, used for the production of new wines. This technique allows the extraction of higher quantities of coloring substances, therefore new Gamay wines will show more intense colors than the ones produced with traditional enological techniques, while accentuating the purple nuance, most of the time showing blue hues. The evolution of color in Gamay is a scarcely considered factor as these wines are rarely aged for more than three years.

 

Aromas

 The main aromatic quality of wines produced with Gamay is represented by intense aromas of red berried fruits. Just like for color, even for aromas it is appropriate to make distinctions between Gamay produced with the traditional enological techniques and new wines. It is however appropriate to observe that in both cases it will be possible to recognize the typical aromas of this grape even though in different intensities and qualities. In wines produced according to the classical wine making techniques, Gamay generally develops aromas of raspberry, black cherry, plum, blueberry and strawberry, sometimes flowery aromas such as violet and rose as well. These aromas are recognizable even in new wines to which are also added the typical aromas of banana, fruit candy and acetone. In some cases - and in particular in wines from the Beaujolais-Villages appellation - it is possible to recognize aromas of chocolate, cinnamon, jasmine and blackberry. Gamay is appreciated for its fresh aromas therefore - even because of its limited longevity - it is not appropriate to talk about their evolution over time.

 

The Taste

 Wines produced with Gamay grape are characterized - as well as appreciated - for their lightness, the high acidity and the modest content in alcohol. For these characteristics, Gamay is usually considered a white wine with a red color. Even the content in tannins is pretty low and therefore the structure of these wines never reaches high levels. During tasting the acidity of Gamay is the first characteristic to be perceived. Moreover, the low quantity of tannins allows a lower serving temperature, a custom which is particularly adopted in the service of new wines that - because of carbonic maceration - contain even lower quantities of tannins. The alcohol percentage in Gamay wines is to be considered as average, generally from 12 to 13%. The taste of Gamay wines is pretty correspondent to its aromas, therefore it will be possible to perceive intense flavors of red berried fruits.

 

Beaujolais and The Rest of the World


 

 The indisputable homeland of Gamay certainly is its land of origin, the south part of Bourgogne and in particular Beaujolais. Most of the production of this area comes from the Beaujolais AOC appellation whereas the lesser part belongs to the Beaujolais Supérieur appellation, which is differentiated from the former because of a higher alcohol percentage. The best appellation of the area certainly is Beaujolais-Villages in which it is produced about one quarter of the wine of the whole area. In case a wine is exclusively produced in one of the ten Beaujolais Crus - places considered the best because of their superior environmental and climate qualities - the name of the cru, that is the name of the village, is mentioned in the label. In some cases the Beaujolais appellation is not even mentioned in the label in favor of the name of the village only. The 10 Beaujolais Cru are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnié and Saint-Amour. The area is also famous for the Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine produced with the carbonic maceration technique. Despite Nouveau - or Primeur - is a wine considered as a fashion phenomenon, its notoriety has surpassed since many years the other Beaujolais wines.

 In France - besides Beaujolais - Gamay is cultivated in the Loire Valley, in the areas of Châteaumeillant, Coteaux du Giennois, Côtes d'Auvergne, Côtes du Forez, Côtes Roannaises, Saint-Pourçain and Coteaux du Lyonnais. Small quantities of Gamay wines are also produced in Bourgogne in the areas of Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais. In the rest of the world Gamay is cultivated in Switzerland - near Geneve and in particular in the Valais and Salvagnin areas, usually blended with Pinot Noir - in Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo. Gamay is also cultivated in Italy and in particular in Vallée d'Aoste. Tuscany and Umbria, where it is present for more than one century and used for DOC wines of the Colli del Trasimeno areas. Outside Europe, Gamay is found in modest quantities in Canada and in California, most of the times confused with Valdiguié grape - locally known as Napa Gamay - whereas Gamay Beaujolais, cultivated in California, is a Pinot Noir clone.

 






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Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Monferrato Rosso Bacialè 2002, Braida (Italy)
Monferrato Rosso Bacialè 2002
Braida (Italy)
Grapes: Barbera (80%), Pinot Noir (15%), Cabernet Sauvignon (5%)
Price: € 9.60 Score: Wine that excels in its category
The wine shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas that start with hints of cherry and blackberry followed by aromas of pomegranate, blueberry, raspberry, plum, violet, licorice and vanilla. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and appreciable crispness, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, plum and pomegranate. Bacialè ages in cask for 8-12 months.
Food Match: Broiled meat and barbecue, Stewed meat with mushrooms, Cheese



Barbera d'Asti Bricco della Bigotta 2001, Braida (Italy)
Barbera d'Asti Bricco della Bigotta 2001
Braida (Italy)
Grapes: Barbera
Price: € 28.00 Score:
This wine shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry and plum followed by aromas of blueberry, blackberry, violet, toasted wood, vanilla, licorice, menthol and hints of black pepper. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and appreciable crispness, however well balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, good tannins. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry. A well made wine. Bricco della Bigotta ages for 16 months in barrique followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Pomino Bianco Benefizio 2003, Marchesi de' Frescobaldi (Italy)
Pomino Bianco Benefizio 2003
Marchesi de' Frescobaldi (Italy)
Grapes: Chardonnay
Price: € 15.70 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This wine shows a brilliant golden yellow color and nuances of golden yellow, very transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of banana, hawthorn and toasted wood followed by aromas of acacia, pineapple, litchi, apple, hazelnut, peach, praline, plum, grapefruit and vanilla. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and pleasing smoothness, however well balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of peach, grapefruit and pineapple. A well made wine. Pomino Benefizio ferments and ages in barrique for 12 months followed by 4 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted fish, Stuffed pasta, Fish and mushrooms soups, Roasted white meat



Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2000, Marchesi de' Frescobaldi (Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2000
Marchesi de' Frescobaldi (Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 25.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Brunello shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, cyclamen, pomegranate, carob, blueberry, blackberry, licorice, tobacco, vanilla and menthol. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however well balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, blueberry and plum. A well made wine. This Brunello ages for at least 2 years in cask followed by at least 4 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese Bricco del Bosco 2003, Accornero (Italy)
Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese Bricco del Bosco 2003
Accornero (Italy)
Grapes: Grignolino
Price: € 8.00 Score:   Good value wine
This wine shows a pale ruby red color and nuances of brick red, transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of cherry, raspberry and plum followed by aromas of strawberry, geranium, cyclamen, blueberry and hints of black pepper. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and pleasing crispness, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. A well made wine.
Food Match: Roasted fish, Stewed fish with mushrooms, Stuffed pasta, Sauteed white meat



Barbera del Monferrato Superiore Bricco Battista 2001, Accornero (Italy)
Barbera del Monferrato Superiore Bricco Battista 2001
Accornero (Italy)
Grapes: Barbera
Price: € 21.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Barbera shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, impenetrable to light. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry and plum followed by aromas of violet, blueberry, carob, licorice, tobacco, mace, vanilla, menthol and chocolate. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however well balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and blueberry. A well made wine. This Barbera ages for 12-18 months in barrique followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Braised and stewed meat, Roasted meat, Hard cheese



Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda La Rubiosa 2003, Le Fracce (Italy)
Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda La Rubiosa 2003
Le Fracce (Italy)
Grapes: Croatina
Price: € 6.80 Score:   Good value wine
This wine shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and blueberry followed by aromas of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, black currant and anise. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a pleasing effervescent and tannic attack, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, cherry and plum. A well made wine. This Bonarda referments in pressurized tank.
Food Match: Cold cuts, Stuffed pasta, Stewed meat



Oltrepò Pavese Bohemi 2000, Le Fracce (Italy)
Oltrepò Pavese Bohemi 2000
Le Fracce (Italy)
Grapes: Barbera (55%), Croatina (25%), Pinot Noir (25%)
Price: € 18.50 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This wine shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry and plum followed by aromas of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, violet, vanilla, tobacco, licorice, cocoa, eucalyptus, mace and hints of black pepper. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and appreciable crispness, however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry. A well made wine. Bohemi ages in cask for 18 months.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Barbera d'Alba 2001, Cascina Cucco (Italy)
Barbera d'Alba 2001
Cascina Cucco (Italy)
Grapes: Barbera
Price: € 9.30 Score:
The wine shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and black cherry followed by aromas of blueberry, violet, vanilla, licorice, tobacco, cocoa and cinnamon. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly tannic attack and appreciable crispness, however balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, good tannins. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, black cherry and blueberry. A well made wine.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed meat with mushrooms, Hard cheese



Barolo Vigna Cucco 2000, Cascina Cucco (Italy)
Barolo Vigna Cucco 2000
Cascina Cucco (Italy)
Grapes: Nebbiolo
Price: € 19.60 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Barolo shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of brick red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of cherry and violet followed by aromas of raspberry, strawberry, vanilla, plum, licorice, tobacco, cocoa, menthol, lavender and hints of black pepper and mace. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and pleasing crispness, however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins. The finish is persistent with flavors of plum, cherry, raspberry and strawberry. A well made wine. This Barolo ages for 18 months in barrique, 9-10 months in cask followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Braised and stewed meat, Roasted meat, Hard cheese



Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Casale del Giglio (Italy)
Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Casale del Giglio (Italy)
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Price: € 14.40 Score:
The wine shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas which start with hints of black cherry and black currant followed by aromas of blueberry, plum, vanilla, licorice, tobacco, violet, blackberry, carob and hints of eucalyptus. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however well balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum and black currant. A well made wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon ages in barrique for 18-20 months.
Food Match: Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Mater Matuta 2000, Casale del Giglio (Italy)
Mater Matuta 2000
Casale del Giglio (Italy)
Grapes: Syrah (85%), Petit Verdot (15%)
Price: € 24.00 Score:
This wine shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of plum, black cherry and black currant followed by aromas of toasted wood, vanilla, blueberry, licorice, tobacco, coffee, carob, mace, black pepper and eucalyptus. In the mouth has very good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however well balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, good tannins, agreeable. The finish is very persistent with flavors of black cherry, plum, black currant and blueberry. A very well made wine. Mater Matuta ages for 22-24 months in barrique followed by 6-8 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Braised and stewed meat, Hard cheese



Colli Orientali del Friuli Bianco Pomèdes 2002, Scubla (Italy)
Colli Orientali del Friuli Bianco Pomèdes 2002
Scubla (Italy)
Grapes: Pinot Blanc (49%), Tocai Friulano (49%), Riesling (2%)
Price: € 19.20 Score: Wine that excels in its category
Bianco Pomèdes shows a brilliant golden yellow color and nuances of straw yellow, very transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of plum and toasted wood followed by aromas of pineapple, hawthorn, vanilla, coffee, mineral, apple, hazelnut, peach and praline. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a crisp attack and pleasing roundness, however well balanced by alcohol, good body, intense flavors, agreeable. The finish is persistent with flavors of peach, pineapple, apple and plum. A well made wine. Bianco Pomèdes ferments and ages for 8 months in barrique, for 4 months in steel tanks and for 6 months in bottle.
Food Match: Roasted fish, Stewed fish with mushrooms, Stuffed pasta



Colli Orientali del Friuli Verduzzo Friulano Cratis 2001, Scubla (Italy)
Colli Orientali del Friuli Verduzzo Friulano Cratis 2001
Scubla (Italy)
Grapes: Verduzzo Friulano
Price: € 26.00 Score:
Cratis shows an intense amber yellow color and nuances of amber yellow, transparent. The nose reveals personality with intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of candied fruits, dried fig and honey followed by aromas of caramel, chocolate, apricot jam, peach jam, date, lavender, orange marmalade, walnut, citrus fruit peel and vanilla. In the mouth has very good correspondence to the nose, a sweet attack and pleasing smoothness, however well balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, very agreeable. The finish is very persistent with flavors of date, apricot jam, caramel, honey and dried fig. A great wine. Cratis is produced with dried Verduzzo Friulano grapes, ferments and ages in barrique for 24 months followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Hard and piquant cheese, Chocolate cakes, Dried fruits desserts






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