Growing respect for Gamay wine

Maison Louis Latour 2011 Bourgogne Gamay. (Handout)

Maison Louis Latour 2011 Bourgogne Gamay. (Handout)

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:00 PM ET

Gamay Noir is a grape that’s famous for being disregarded. The Duke of Burgundy Philip the Bold banished it from regional vineyards in 1395 to promote growth of the more elegant and refined Pinot Noir. He went as far to say the grape was “injurious to the human creature.”

Pushed out of the privileged growing areas, Gamay took root in the Beaujolais region where it’s capable of producing serious and complex red wines in the right hands. The best wines come from growers and producers working in the rolling hills of named 10 special appellations such as Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon. Blends of wines from these areas are marketed as Beaujolais-Villages, which continue to be some of the best value French wines on offer.

The success of Beaujolais Nouveau wines, which are released fresh from the fermentation vat with great fanfare in November, obscured the reputation of both the region and the grape. Even seasoned wine lovers would be forgiven for typecast Beaujolais as simply being tart and lively reds.

But Gamay’s fortunes seem to be changing. Top Beaujolais wines are the toast of trendsetting sommeliers around the world and more winemakers have been taking increased interest in Gamay.

Large Burgundy domaines such as Louis Latour and Louis Jadot have made significant investments in Beaujolais, buying up vineyards and locking in contracts with growers with the eye of adding more Gamay to their portfolio. Curiously, after reduced crops in 2011 and 2012, it just might be humble Gamay that allows producers to keep up with market demands.

The newly designated Bourgogne Gamay became a regional appellation with the 2011 vintage. The regulations call for Gamay from the 10 prime growing areas to be used, with a maximum of 15% Pinot Noir.

Louis-Fabrice Latour explains the more affordable category is a reaction to the increasing prices for Bourgogne Pinot Noir. His family’s Bourgogne Gamay sells for a few dollars less than its entry level Pinot Noir.

“People love the concept,” said Latour, whose family has made wine in Burgundy since 1797. “The 15 percent (sic)Pinot brings some finesse and class to the wine. Some of the complexity that sometimes Gamay is missing.”

Wines of the Week:

**** Maison Louis Latour 2011 Bourgogne Gamay

Burgundy, France

BC $25.99 (822809) | ON $18.95 (361014)

Gamay from the villages of Fleurie, Chenas and Regnie is blended with 15% Pinot Noir, with a portion aged in French oak to enhance the complexity and structure of the finished wine. The result is a polished, medium-bodied red with a core of red fruit that’s nicely accented by pepper and savoury notes. Serve slightly chilled for best enjoyment during warm months. (CW)

**** Maison Louis Jadot 2012 Combe aux Jacques Beaujolais-Villages

Burgundy, France

BC $21.99 (469924) | MB $17.91 (469924) | ON $17.95 (365924)

Lighter in body and in tannins, this is a classic example of Gamay Noir. Its juicy personality and lively fruit flavours make it a refreshing red that’s an ideal companion to grilled salmon or chicken. Chill for 20 minutes before serving for best effect.


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