Gamay grape

Waggish wine wisdom: Gamay grapes are wine world’s simplest red grapes and make the only white wine that happens to be red.

Gamay’s official name is Gamay noir à jus blanc (“black Gamay with white juice”). Of all red grapes, Gamay makes wines with the lightest texture, tannin, and color.

With history dating back six centuries in French village of Gamay, you would think Gamay could garner more respect. The vine certainly tries its best. It is vigorous, easy to cultivate, ripens early, has excellent acidity.

But tasting reveals profuse fruitiness unencumbered by tannins with black cherries and raspberries rampant. Some Gamay wines are described as cherry Jell-O or bubble gum.

When treated correctly, however, Gamay grapes make delicious wines, especially in the Beaujolais area of southern Burgundy.

Gamay is suited to a special type of making called “carbonic maceration”, where fermentation begins before grapes are crushed. The process helps tame Gamay’s acidity and produces a wine that is fruity and delicious, albeit not complex.

In the 1970s and 1980s, one type of bottling—Beaujolais Nouveau—enjoyed a heyday. Sold amid bouffant hype in mid-November, six-to-eight weeks after harvest, Beaujolais Nouveau was fun for a while, but now is soooo last year.

Sad, because there are 10 seriously made Cru du Beaujolais wines from specific villages in Beaujolais that are wonderful. Each is distinctive and delicious. All are affordable and more than worthy of a taste.

Forget fads and a class clown reputation; give Gamay a go.


• Duboeuf Chiroubles. One of 10 “Cru du Beaujolais”. Delicious value. $12

• Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent. Extremely delicious fruits, will make you a Beaujolais fan. $13.

• Duboeuf Fleurie. Floral, velvety taste. $14.

• Domaine de Colette Régnié. Balanced, good acidity, lighter style. $18