Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Beating the Late Winter Blahs with Gamay

Think Gamay and you probably think Beaujolais. I hope you think real Beaujolais, but maybe you think Beaujolais Nouveau, the grapey brew that arrives just before Thanksgiving in time for your leftover turkey sandwiches. Gamay is one of the world's most food-friendly and affordable red wines. It's also the perfect wine for beating back winter blahs and blues. (image from Kobrand USA)

The next time you're in the wine store, I want you to keep your eyes peeled for Gamay. But don't just look for Beaujolais bottlings. Look for a Gamay from the Loire. The Loire also has a strong tradition of cultivating this old grape variety. Gamay is grown throughout the Loire, and it tastes a bit different from Beaujolais examples. This isn't surprising, but it confirmed my sense that the Gamay variety can have the same interesting variations from region to region as the finest Pinot Noir--at a far more affordable price.

I recently tried an excellent QPR Loire Gamay: the 2006 Chateau Courtinat Tradition. Made exclusively from old vine grapes grown in the Saint Pourcain VDQS, I bought this from Garagiste as a future for just under $12 ($11.84 to be exact) in the fall. It's no longer available through Garagiste, and I unfortunately can't find it elsewhere on the web. But I wanted to write about it anyway because it was so distinctive--and so good.

It had a beautiful deep ruby color, just like your favorite Pinot. There were lovely aromas of raspberry, cherry, earth, and mushroom with a pronounced whiff of iron. The flavors were perfectly balanced between fresh red fruits, earthiness, and mouth-watering acidity. I liked the silkiness of the wine, and the mineral taste, that reminded me of iron, that hung around in the mouth after you swallowed. The sense of depth in this wine belies its 12.5% alc/vol indication. This may not pack an alcoholic punch, but it certainly isn't a lightweight in the taste department.

At a time when many of us are struggling with the late winter blahs, Gamay is a perfect wine choice. It's not too light, it's not too heavy--it's just right. It will be just as good now with a bowl of soup as it will be in a month or so with ham (if that's what sits on your spring table) or even in June with some BBQ. Right now, you can give yourself a nice jolt of the summer eating to come by preparing a Greek pasta dish with olives, capers, tomatoes, feta cheese and lots of parsley. It will blow some of the cobwebs out of your winter diet, and the garlic and feta are just lovely with the smooth, cherried flavors of the wine.

It's time to bring some excitement back to your wine list, and your table. All the things that make Gamay a perfect fall-into-winter wine make it a perfect winter-into-spring wine as well. Drinking Gamay is kind of like putting your wine habits on daylight savings time--it's a sure sign of spring.


Richard Auffrey said...

I would also suggest trying Gamay from Switzerland. I recently had a 2006 Dubaril Gamay Romand and it was very good, much better that the Beaujolais Nouveau most consider when thinking of Gamay.

Taster B said...

You had me at "garlic and feta"!

David said...

Sounds like a good one to try. Perhaps I haven't given Gamay enough of a chance.

Unknown said...

Spot on! I've even had a couple Gamays from Willamette Valley and they were great. I bet Georges Dubeouf thinks he's clever for bottling bubblegum and getting the suckers to buy it by the pallet. But all he's really done is degrade the image of the Gamay grape. Ironically, he's guilty of bottling some of the nicer Gamays (his Domaine Cru Beaujolais bottlings), making him his own worse enemy.

Dr. Debs said...

Richard, I've never had a wine from Switzerland, but you're the second person in a few weeks to give me this tip so it must be time. David, they're great food wines--you should give them a try again.