About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beaujolais and The Grape It Comes From

Most consumers are not familiar with Gamay but are familiar with Beaujolais wine. This French A.O.C. utilizes the Gamy grape as the component of its red wine, noted for softness and fruit forward characteristics.

Gamay has been grown in the Beaujolais region of France since the middle 1300’s and derives its name from a French Village. It is a thin skinned, low tannin grape that produces high yields, ripens early and has a tendency to be highly acidic. That tendency is modified, however, when grown in highly acidic soil and the characteristic fruitiness of the wine that comes from the Gamay grape is further enhanced by carbonic maceration.

Gamay is hybrid cross of Pinot Noir and the white varietal Gouais. Gouais is believed to have originated in south central Europe and was thought to have been brought to France by the Romans. It was known as “the grape of the peasants” but now is almost extinct. It is noted today because it led to the development of many of the white varietals utilized today in France and Germany. It also has highly influenced the genetic tree of the Gamay grape. Karen Mac Neil, authoress of “The Wine Bible” called Beaujolais “the only white wine that happens to be red”.

Gamay can also be found in very limited quantities and usage in the Loire Valley of France, in Canada, in Australia and in Oregon. There has been, in the past, many wines labeled “Napa Gamay” out of California but with some rare exceptions, nearly all of those were based on Valdigue, a grape with similar characteristics that once was thought to be a Gamay clone. It originated in the Languedoc Roussillon where it is mostly utilized in producing industrial alcohol. In California, wine-makers have copied the Beaujolais vintner’s usage of carbonic maceration and have produced a Valdigue wine that is, indeed, quite similar to many of the Beaujolais wines being produced.

One place you will probably not find Gamay is in Burgundy. In 1395, Phillipe The Bold, Duke of Burgundy, outlawed Gamay as a grape inferior to the preferred Pinot Noir. His ban was reaffirmed later by another Duke of Burgundy named Phillipe and since then Pinot Noir has been the basis of French Burgundy.

Most U.S. consumer’s early experience with Beaujolais has come with the introduction each year of Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday in November. This quickly produced, young version of Beaujolais is rushed to market each year and accounts for nearly half of the region’s annual production of Beaujolais. There are many stories about the origin of the tradition but it comes back to basically being a marketing scheme to increase sales by Georges Dubouef. This Burgundian negociant is one of the leading producers of Beaujolais.

If you’ve never tried Beaujolais, The Wine Guy recommends trying both Beaujolais Nouveau and the regular vintage Beaujolais, particularly those with the Beaujolais Villages appellation. Both Georges Dubouef and Louis Jadot are widely available in the U.S. Some of the estate vineyard bottlings of Beaujolais can be quite unique but are limited and much harder to find. To experience Californian Valdigue, try, in particular, J. Lohr Wildflower Valdigue.

Exploring wine is always a fun adventure. Treat yourself soon!

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