Gamay is a grape varietal that I could have to blind taste for my Level 2 Sommelier exam, so I spent the morning trying a few samples.
The region of Beaujolais exists at the extreme southern end of Burgundy, where the pretention of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay production ends. The Beaujolais that I’ve had in the past was bright pink, thick with strawberry, almost to a fault, and with a mouth-feeling that was a little too thin for me. That was several years ago. Nice to see today that we’ve both grown up a bit. The two Beaujolais bottles I tried were not quite what I expected. I anticipated thin, bright red, see-through wine that would be a dead-giveaway for the varietal, like the ones I’ve had in the past. I’m glad to report that, yes, the wine was raspberry red, but thick and medium-bodied, and more challenging to identify than say a Pinot Noir or a Nebbiolo can be. Gamay-based wines are not aged, but released full of bright red fruit and white pepper. An ideal wine for different palates, this versatile number could be great served slightly chilled with summer patio barbequed chicken, or at Thanksgiving with cranberry sauce and herb stuffing. Loads of red fruit: strawberry, tart cherry, pomegranate, concord grape and cranberry create elusive layers of expressive fruit that still remain subtle in that lovely Old World way. Bright acidity, surprising brisk tannins and wet granite minerality balance out the fruit just right.
Louis Jadot is a huge player in the Burgundy region, blending and marketing wines from the northern extremes of Chablis to the southern reaches of Beaujolais. Smoke and spice liven up this 2010 release. Expect raspberry, a whiff of rose petal and strawberry to be main fruit elements.
I love how in becoming a better wine taster I’m able to detect minerality a lot more confidently. And both of these wines have an underlying layer of wet rocks. I guessed slate, close, but the soils of Beaujolais are actually granite-based and a little sandy. Georges Dubouef’s 2010 Beaujolais-Villages sings with more floral notes, especially violet and rose. More tart cherry and grape-y fruit, like whole grape concord jelly, fill the glass, but fades nicely as the wine opens.
Favorite bistro wines throughout France, Beaujolais stands out as an easy go-to wine with mild cheeses, pasta dishes, pizza, and poultry. After some scandalous years and poor yields, these wines make me think that the region is making a come-back.