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Gamay is a grape that makes delicious juicy easy-drinking wine that has characteristic flavours of soft red fruits, bubblegum and sometimes banana and is grown mostly in the Beaujolais region of France in the South of Burgundy.
Gamay is the signature grape of wines in Beaujolais, where it thrives on the Granitic soil. 70 million litres are produced each year and more than half of this is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a fruity, easy drinking wine released with a big celebration on the third Thursday after the grapes have been harvested. This is known as"Beaujolais day" and is well worth hanging around Burgundy to witness (and sample).
Beaujolais Nouveau undergoes a special process in the winery called Carbonic Maceration. Grapes are left in a big vat underneath a protective blanket of CO2 to prevent them spoiling, and their own weight slowly squeezes out the juices. This gives the wines softer tannins, fruitier flavours and the characteristic pear drop and bubblegum flavours which Beaujolais Nouveau fans love.
More "serious" Gamay wines are made in ten special Cru villages in the Beaujolais area. Some of the best known include Fleurie, Julienus, and Moulin a Vent. These wines range from being rich and smooth, to light and vivacious, with each village having its own character. These Cru wines are pricey - driven by the prestige of the name of the village and the maker. For better value wines look just outside the Crus to the surrounding area, where the wines are known as Beaujolais Villages, or even wider, Beaujolais Superieur. These may not have the prestige of the Cru Villages but they are much better value.
Gamay is also grown in the Loire, where it is used in blends, or turned into delicious soft easy drinking red wines. The only other country where Gamay is grown significantly is in the Niagara peninsula in Canada, which is on the same latitude as France. There are many vineyards here and the wine produced is soft, early drinking and fruity. You can also find Gamay from South Africa and Australia where a few makers are experimenting with it to make easy drinking fruity wines.