Will the real Beaujolais please stand up?

Beaujolais conjures up mixed reactions from wine lovers who tend to love or loathe its fruity charms, especially when the word nouveau comes up... writes Joelle Thomson.

 

The grape that makes Beaujolais is called Gamay and it's an onamatoepaic word. This means that Gamay sounds soft and rich, and Gamay makes soft, rich and fruity tasting wines. 

Gamay is an old Burgundian grape variety and was first written about in 1395. 

It is also known as Gamay Noir, Gamay Beaujolais and Gamay Blanc (a mutation of the black skinned grape that can appear on the same vines as its darker sibling), among many other names. 

France is home to more Gamay than...

... you can shake a stick it because France has the biggest number of plantings of Gamay in the world. The latest figures (2009) indicate that Gamay is the seventh most planted grape in France with 30,443 hectares (75,226 acres). 

It is allowed to be grown in almost every wine growing region in France, apart from Bordeaux, the island of Corsica (Corse) and Alsace. That said, about two thirds of Gamay plantings are in the greater Vallée de Rhone, which includes the Beaujolais region.

Wine writer Jancis Robinson says most Gamay was light and fruity in the past.

"Those rushed through the cellar by vinification techniques such as carbonic maceration in order to reach the market in November after the harvest as Beaujolais Nouveau were often thin and tasted like bananas and bubble-gum. However, with the decline in fashion and market demand for this style and the increasing number of well-made and ambitious wines vinified more traditionally, sometimes with oak aging, Gamay is showing more purely its fine, refreshing, sometimes peppery, red fruit - and surprising longevity in the case of some wines, from the ten crus of Beaujolais," she writes in her hefty 3.8 kilogram tome called Wine Grapes.

How it grows...

Gamay is a grape that's prone to spring frosts, but which also enjoys a not-too-hot climate in which to ripen, which is one reason winemaker Duncan Forsyth now makes Gamay in Central Otago. And a beautiful dark and fruity drop it is, too, which is why we'll crack a bottle open at our Next level Beaujolais tasting on Thursday 21 November this year, in store.

 

Taste next level Beaujolais (and Gamay) 

There's more to life in Beaujolais country than the much besmirched 'nouveau' and this year we celebrate Beaujolais Day at Regional by showing the Gamay grape (the sole ingredient in Beaujolais) in a whole new light – for a start, we are not cracking open any bottles of nouveau.

Pop into Regional for our weekly Thirsty Thursday tasting on Beaujolais Day to taste what Gamay is really all about; ripe fruit flavours held together in a structured, full bodied red, thanks to a great grape and good winemaking.

Beaujolais - the next level tasting is on Thursday 21 November in store from 1pm to 5pm.

The wines we will taste are...

2017 Chateau Thivin Sept Vignes Cotes de Brouilly Beaujolais Special $39.99 (RRP $42.99)

2019 Mount Edward Gamay Central Otago Special $29.99 (RRP $32.99)