Gamay: Gimmick or Greatness?

These days, it’s common to see specific wine grapes, regions or styles lauded online, with some sort or other of protracted hashtag. November 7, for example, was International Merlot Day (Hashtag #internationalmerlotday, of course).

It should be noted, perhaps relatedly, that it was #worldvasectomyday that day as well. But I digress.

As choosing a day to laud a certain type of wine goes, there’s one grape/region that reigns supreme, and has reigned since the hashtag was still known as “the number sign” on a phone.

That, of course, is Beaujolais Nouveau, made from the delicious Gamay grape. Celebrated every year on the third Thursday in November — it’s Nov. 20 this year — some producers will tell you it will give an early indication of the quality of the vintage.

Perhaps that’s somewhat true, but the origins of Beaujolais Nouveau, like #InternationalMerlotDay and all the rest, lie in marketing.

Beaujolais Nouveau is released at the stroke of midnight in every time zone at parties full of traditionalists and wine geeks. It’s a way to get people talking about wines from the Beaujolais region and buying the flower-adorned bottles full of fun, not-at-all-serious red wine.

So is it worth getting excited over Beaujolais Nouveau? Well, if you like young, very fresh reds with big berry and banana candy notes, you should be pumped. Most other wine drinkers find the wines to be bit overhyped and much ado about nothing.

I’ve come around on the wines a bit as my fondness for the Gamay grape has continued to grow. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are definitely different animals than a fully “mature” Beaujolais or New World Gamay. They lack tannin, or any kind of structure — the general rule is to drink Beaujolais Nouveau by around Easter. Our American neighbours can also use it as an ideal Thanksgiving red wine.

If you’re looking for great Gamay, you can do much better on our shores than the French Nouveaus in the fancy painted bottles. The Mt. Boucherie 2011 Gamay is a bit of an older vintage, but still kicking some butt, and a very good B.C. Gamay for the price. Tawse’s 2013 Gamay Noir shows just how well this grape is made in the cooler Niagara Peninsula.

Also very good (and written about before on this site) are Niagara’s 13th Street 2012 Gamay and JoieFarm’s 2012 Gamay sourced from a single vineyard in B.C.’s Naramata Bench.

Grab some Gamay this November and see why all the wine geeks are gaga over this grape.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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