Author: Ágnes Herczeg, Kristian Kielmayer

Gamay noir

Gamay noir

History

Gamay Noir is known as an ancient Burgundian variety and was first mentioned in texts at the end of the 14th century, when Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, literally disowned it, ordering it to be uprooted and outlawing its cultivation. In other words, he banished the variety to the granite soil in the Beaujolais wine region.

Gamay Noir probably got its name from the village located between St-Aubin and Chassagne Montrachet, thus confirming DNA research about it always having been a variety of Burgundian origin. Most probably, it is a natural hybrid of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, which is why it is also called Petit Bourguignon or Bourguignon Noir.

Viticultural characteristics

Blooms and ripens early, with low yield, and prefers short (spur) pruning. Its clusters are medium-sized, compact and cylindrical; its leaves are symmetrical, V-shaped and have prominent teeth. It is a relatively vulnerable variety and is therefore susceptible to both fungal diseases and grey rot.

Where it's grown

In its home country, it is the most widespread variety, cultivated on nearly 30,000 hectares, and is found not only in Burgundy, but almost everywhere in France. It enjoys the soil and climate of Southern Burgundy, next to Beaujolais, in the Rhone valley. It is also an outstanding variety in Switzerland, where it is often blended with Pinot Noir (the blend is called Dole) in Valais canton. It can be found in smaller quantities in England, Germany, California and Hungary as well. In Hungary, Gamay Noir is only cultivated in the Mátra Hills, on three hectares.

What its wine taste like

In spite of its former bad reputation – perhaps due to Philip the Bold – this variety produces light, fresh red wines. Sometimes, from a more serious vineyard (such as the so-called cru Beaujolais villages) and with some attention, Gamay Noir can produce some quite lovely wines. Generally, they are characterised by red berry notes, fresh acids and subtle tannins, mostly yielding ‘young wines’ with the help of appropriate technological expertise. In Hungary, we mainly find this variety as a rosé wine.

Wine & food pairings

The grape variety known as Gamay or Gamay Noir is relatively rare in Hungary and is therefore hard to find among local wines. It is explicitly fruity, with aromas of strawberry, sour cherry and cherry, and has a subtle tannin content. Certain winemaking techniques can lend Gamay Noir wines some bubble gum and banana notes. We mostly find this variety in young and rosé wines. Because Gamay wines tend to be lighter, they work well on their own or when paired with light dishes and their style means they are pleasant to drink all year round. They are best paired with water fowl and characterful Asian-style pork dishes because of their subtle tannins and explosively fruity aromas, but they are also a great accompaniment to spaghetti Bolognese, plum-stuffed pigeon or turkey, venison and breaded camembert with cranberry sauce. Their style means it is best to choose from the latest vintages and drink them while fresh. Always keep Gamay at a low temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat, to best preserve the wine’s fragile perfume aromas. It is best served a bit colder, at 14-16°C, in tulip-shaped wine glasses.

 

Among many ingredients, carrot, potato, beetroot, eggplant, celery, tomato, sweet spices, curry, mature cheeses, camembert-style cheeses, dishes made from goose, duck, wild fowl, pork, veal, venison and offal are closest to wines made from Gamay, in structure and taste.

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