Illustrations by Brent Schoonover
Your local wine store has a thousand different bottles. Half of the labels aren’t in English. New trends arise with every vintage, and it’s hard to know which to chase and when to stick to your go-to bottle instead. Fortunately, we know a few wine experts in the Twin Cities. So we asked them—what does the average wine drinker need to know in 2016?
Why Gamay is the Best Red Grape Ever
By Brie Roland, Wine Director, St. Genevieve
Gamay or Gamay noir is a seemingly humble grape, which to some may be synonymous with two French words: Beaujolais Nouveau—a quickly fermented, fuchsia-hued, candy-coated, banana and bubble gum bomb that floods the market the third week of November just in time for your great-aunt Gertrude to insist she bring the wine for the Thanksgiving table. Damn. And while Beaujolais Nouveau’s existence is an indisputable fact about Gamay that we all just have to live with, there are so many wonderful things about it and its many expressions that I, for one, just can’t and won’t stop drinking it.
Enter the Gang of Four, stage right. No, I am not talking about the English post-punk band from the 1970s. I am talking about four winemakers—Marcel Lapierre, Guy Breton, Jean Foillard, and Jean-Paul Thénevet—whose reactions to the less-than-sterling winemaking practices in the Beaujolais region in the 1980s spurred a movement to return to a more traditional winemaking approach, focusing less on making the big bucks and more on making a product that expressed a sense of place, or what we in the biz call terroir. Their passion and vision forever changed perceptions about what Gamay could be.
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Moral: skip the Nouveau and check the Burgundy aisle for “Beaujolais-Villages” or cozy up to the wine buyer and ask them about their favorite Cru Beaujolais, so-labeled for the 10 villages that were deemed exemplary sites for growing Gamay. These range from light and floral (Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie) to deep and rustic (Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent). There are also excellent expressions coming out of Oregon and California.
In the simplest terms, Gamay is awesome because it can be silly and irreverent or deadly serious. It’s been known to be a little wild and flirtatious at times. You don’t have to think about it too hard, but you can if you want to. It’s highly quaffable and even the best ones won’t break the bank at your local booze emporium. Its relatively low alcohol content, mellow tannins, and lifted acidity coupled with its lovely expressions of fruit and earth make it an extremely versatile pairing with food. It’s great with a slight chill on a hot summer day or for sipping on your rooftop in sweater-weather, gazing at the stars. Le sigh.