Gamay is inextricably associated with the red wines of Beaujolais. As the only authorised red variety, it is widely planted as freestanding ‘bush vines’ on the sand and granite stone soils across the hilly Beaujolais region, south of Macon. Most Beaujolais is made by the ‘maceration carbonique’ fermentation, which minimises the tannins and ensures an early drinking red with deep purple colour and aromatic bouquet of summer fruits, fruit gums and lactic acidity.
Cru Beaujolais is planted on richer granite soils and often made by a traditional fermentation. It is distinguished by a more profound mineral content backed by rich aromas of violets and cherry, full palate with typical vibrant summer berry fruit and finishes with supple tannins. Some producers also experiment with a period of oak cask aging. Outside Beaujolais, the only significant vineyard area traditionally planted with Gamay is in the central Loire Valley, although a little ‘Gamay Beaujolais’ is planted in California.
The Loire Gamay grapes make fleshy, aromatic red wine with juicy fruit flavours, gentle tannins and all the ripeness of a Cru Beaujolais although the acidity can be more apparent in cooler vintages. Touraine produces the best examples.