Willamette Valley Gamay Noir
Gamay Noir is an underrepresented grape varietal in the Willamette Valley, in my opinion. Most people only know of Gamay as the light-hearted "Beaujolais Nouveau," and are unaware that this light-bodied, easy-drinking red grape can also be serious, complex, and age-worthy.
Gamay Noir is a fantastic wine to pair with food - with bright acidity and low tannins, it can be matched with a vast range of dishes. We always enjoy it on Thanksgiving as it complements many foods on the table! But it can also be served slightly chilled as a summer red, or savored solo to relax during a wine and movie night.
Gamay Noir is a light-bodied, medium to high acid red wine that's loved by many for its delicate floral aromas, subtle earthy notes, and its ability to pair with a vast variety of foods. It is similar to Pinot Noir, but it is often possible to find high-quality bottles for significantly less than Pinot due to its obscurity. Many Gamay wines have red fruit flavors, such as raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, and currant with notes of violet flowers. A more complex and well-made Gamay wine will also have distinct minerality and spicy notes. Gamay Noir is a cousin grape to the popular Pinot Noir and while 75% of the world’s Gamay Noir is produced in Beaujolais, France, it can also be found in other cool-climate regions, such as Willamette Valley in Oregon, New Zealand, the Loire Valley in France, and parts of Canada. The Gamay grape first came around in the Burgundy region in the 14th century, right after the Black Death epidemic. It was much easier to harvest than Pinot Noir, which is why it gained popularity among local growers. In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy banned the cultivation of Gamay in Burgundy, as he deemed the grape was "disloyal" and "harsh." So, as Pinot Noir established its dominance in Burgundy, Gamay started to settle its roots in the Beaujolais region. Gamay Noir is the signature red variety of Beaujolais, France. There, you will almost always see the bottles labeled by one of three classifications: Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, or Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is a seasonal treat, released every year on the third Thursday of November, and is the first wine from the new vintage (the wines harvested that same year). It is made using the process of carbonic maceration and is bottled just 6-8 weeks after harvest, making the wine low in tannin, high in acidity, and incredibly fruit-forward. It is a fun and simple example of Gamay Noir wine. In the glass, you’ll find lush, juicy red fruit aromas of raspberry and cranberry, followed by fig, banana, and potentially even bubblegum. These wines have a bit of a "chewy" texture. It’s always fun to celebrate the new harvest with this wine! For a limited time, and in limited quantities, we'll have a variety of Gamay Noir here at Old Zen this week as we ramp up for Thanksgiving, including a Gamay Nouveau!