A Grape Highlight: Beaujolais Nouveau (Gamay)
Welcome to the first ever Grape Highlight. This month we will be focusing on the Gamay grape, but more particularly on the Beaujolais Nouveau production of the Gamay varietal. It is quite unique and apropos for the upcoming weeks of November.
Roughly 700 years ago, Phillippe the Bold outlawed the growth of the Gamay grape in the Burgundy region of France. Which ultimately pushed the production of the varietal south, to what is now recognized as the Beaujolais AOC. He believed that the grape was inferior to Pinot Noir and should not be produced in Burgundy, where the best wines were known to come from at that time. This seems to be where Beaujolais' reputation for lack luster wines began.
The Gamay vine buds earlier, flowers earlier and produces grapes almost 2 weeks earlier than Pinot Noir - and a lot more to boot! I have heard of the terrors of growing Pinot Noir and the struggle to produce a good wine with such a finicky grape... So why did they ban such an easily cultivated grape that has more potential to make great wine?
The ban worked out for Gamay, because the soils of the region in which it now thrives are rich in pink granite. Providing the wine with the opportunity to be incredibly unique and dynamic on the palate. Blake and I paired a Cru Beaujolais with Chicken Carbonara as you may recall from the Five Favorite Fall Recipes post last month. It was delicious and dynamic, changing with every sip we took. Beginning bright and fruity, slowly dancing away with our taste buds into the dark earthiness.
Why aren't we drinking more of these wines! They are comparable to the wines you would get from Burgundy, but with a lower price point. Should we start a movement and #BringBackBeaujolais!
I wanted to learn more about this grape/region because I wanted more knowledge about the Beaujolais Nouveau wine. This wine is released around the third week of November (explaining why my glass is empty), meaning it must be a wine produced for Thanksgiving! Molly, Molly, Molly. The wine is from and made in France. Sigh...public school.
Beaujolais Nouveau was created
to celebrate the end of harvest with some of the grapes just picked. But much like anything else, it is not a celebration unless you can profit off of it. With a marketing ploy created by Georges Duboeuf, it became a race to see who could get the first bottle of wine to Paris. Creating a rush and over-production of Beaujolais Nouveau.
How is this happening so fast? Doesn't wine ferment in barrels or the like, for months - even years? This wine is made through the process of Carbonic Maceration, allowing a yeast-less fermentation of the grapes. Voila, with a little human influence wine is created a lot faster. Allowing it to be dispersed to the public within weeks of harvest. This causes the wines to have tasting notes of bubble gum, bananas, and pears. Ick. I imagine it tasting like liquid Wonka Runts.
This fad lasted through the late 80's, when I assume people decided they didn't want to drink wine from Beaujolais anymore. I don't blame them. With tasting notes like that, I would also likely boycott the region. Unfortunately, this has perpetuated the stigma Phillippe bestowed on Gamay as an under-rated grape. Thus, receiving little accolades for the amazing wines that it produces. It seems this region's reputation was further ruined due to a tradition - turned marketing scheme.
But not for me, Gamay more!
I am happy that I had Cru Beaujolais prior to trying Beaujolais Nouveau. I am excited to get my hands on one of these "baby wines" in the coming weeks. I know full well that this wine is not a good representative of the grape or the region, but I still must try it. Stay tuned with my stories on Instagram and Facebook for an update on my tasting experience. Until then, bottoms up!