I always try to personalize wine; it helps give a sense of understanding. For instance, let’s say Pinot Noir is your solid BFF. It’s distinct, reliable in a pinch and there’s never a doubt you’ll create many memories together. But then one day, your Pinot BFF invites another friend to the party – Gamay. Pinot and Gamay come from neighbouring ‘hoods and share a lot of the same history. But in the getting-to-know-you phase, Gamay slowly starts showing its true self, it’s trendy and exciting. Hot damn, life is just a little more interesting when it’s around.
LET’S GET TO KNOW GAMAY
Gamay’s identity is tied to Beaujolais, a region just south of Burgundy. I wrote a bit about it last Fall. Gamay’s value is unbeatable across all levels of quality, from Beaujolais Neuveau (which gets a big hurrah with its release every year on the third Thursday of November) – to Cru or Villages Beaujolais where you can get some stellar bottles for around $30.
However, Gamay is also finding its footing elsewhere. In addition to Touraine in the Loire Valley, cooler climates such as Oregon, New Zealand, Switzerland and here in Canada are seeing great success growing Gamay. Earlier this summer, 15 Canadian wineries received medals at the National Wine Awards of Canada for their single varietal Gamay. WineBC.com cites it as the 6th most planted red variety in BC covering 178 acres. And with consumers exploring lighter bodied and high acidity reds, Gamay ticks a lot of boxes.
RUST WINE CO. GAMAY 2018
Rust is making big waves while still in its infancy. In only 2 years, it’s established itself as one of the most terroir driven producers in BC, showcasing small lot single vineyard wines of purpose from South Okanagan vineyards – some of which are nearing 50 years old. Their Gamay is grown in South Cawston in the Similkameen Valley and the vines are almost 20 years ago.
I wanted the Rust Gamay to be gulpable, and it absolutely was. A perfect slightly chilled light bodied red for summer. But I couldn’t just slam it back; it really made me savour and think. Sweet Christmas baking aromas, specifically, cherry pie with cinnamon and cardamom. It evolved into notes of brambly fruit with prune and mocha.
Moving beyond the sweet weighty aromas, the palate is lifted with delightfully high acidity and a lengthy finish. Like, super duper length, it went on for several minutes. The fresh fruit flavours were highlighted more on the back end, not so much at first, showcasing the cherry and blackberry.
It’s almost showing off at just $23 (if bought from the winery). A solid buy for a wine awarded Gold at the Best of Varietal Awards during the Okanagan Wine Festival.
BLUE MOUNTAIN GAMAY 2017
A true family estate, Blue Mountain has been run by the Mavety family for nearly 50 years. As grape growers since 1971, Ian and Jane Mavety were inspired to start their own label in 1991. Today, their 31-hectare estate in Okanagan Falls produces reserve lines, sparkling wines and the odd magnum. With a slight focus on white varietals, Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir are their shining reds.
The Blue Mountain Gamay is on the earthier side, reminiscent of a Pinot Noir thanks in part to the 12 months of aging in 4-year-old barrels. Aromas of blackberry, plum and spice are on the forefront with a touch of chocolate on the back end. The flavours are mirrored (what you smell is what you taste) and carried through on a light body. The acidity is up there, but not too high with a well-balanced and immersive finish.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS TO TRY
I had a tip to try the Gamay Noir’s from Evening Land Vineyards and Grochau Cellars from Oregon but couldn’t find them in my area. I’ve also heard good things about the Te Mata Gamay from New Zealand but wasn’t able to get my hands on a bottle before publication.
Are you a fan of Gamay? Leave a comment with your non-Beaujolais Gamay recommendation. Cheers!