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A fresh look at Gamay
Gamay. Let's face it, this is not a grape that inspires the kind of reverential response that is usually reserved for Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.
Indeed, some 600 years ago, this simple, unpretentious little grape so insulted the sensibilities of the powerful Duke Philippe the Bold that he banned it entirely, ordering all the vineyards of the then-abundant variety to be ripped out throughout his realms of Burgundy. It would be Pinot Noir or nuthin' if you wanted to make red wine in his jurisdiction, the haughty duke declared.
But down the road in Beaujolais, so far off the beaten path that nobody really cared, they kept right on growing Gamay, and using it to make the region's trademark red wine, light-hearted, fresh and fruity. And the gourmands of nearby Lyon, then as now a major gastronomic capital, were mighty glad to have this tasty table wine all to themselves.
Beaujolais, it seems - and by extention Gamay, wherever it is grown - has walked a narrow tightrope between snobbish disdain and everyday popularity ever since. Rarely if ever sought for greatness, it is widely appreciated for simple, refreshing enjoyment.
When it's very well done by an artisanal maker, particularly in the Beaujolais villages entitled to put their names on the label (Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour, if you're counting), it can make a subtle, interesting wine with intriguing minerality and a real sense of place.
And even when it's made in industrial quantities - for which purpose I tend to prefer Louis Jadot to the ubiquitious flower bottles of Georges Duboeuf - it's still generally a fruity, food-friendly quaff, perhaps best given an hour in the fridge to chill a bit before serving.
Finally, circling around to today's tasting report, Gamay can do very well indeed in the hands of producers outside Beaujolais. One of my favorite examples - sadly made in fairly small amounts and limited in its distribution - is "Bone-Jolly" Gamay Noir Rosé, made in California by the always-reliable Steve Edmunds of Edmunds-St. John. You'll find my tasting report below.
Wine Focus for July: Let's go ... Gamay!
We had a hard time reaching consensus on a subject this month for Wine Focus in our online WineLovers Discussion Group. So we decided to go with a grape that just about nobody hates: Gamay, the trademark grape of Beaujolais but grown here and there elsewhere around the world.
Gamay at its best can be subtle, minerally, complex and interesting. When it's not so good, it's still fruity, and hey, that's okay.
So, bring your Gamays, chill them a little if you wish, and extra credit if you bring something artisanal, although the flower bottles won't be banned. You're invited to share your questions and comments about Gamay and contribute your tasting notes through this month in Wine Focus. Just click Wine Focus for July: Let's go ... Gamay! to drop in. You'll be warmly welcomed in our friendly wine-loving community.
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Taylor Eason raps on rosés
Rosé wines are tasty all year round, but summer is high season for all things chilled and pink, Taylor Eason writes in her recent contribution on WineLoversPage.com. "Rosés are custom-made for thirst quenching. It only makes it better that they're affordable too." Here's her report on some good California dry rosés to write home about.
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Today's Tasting Report
Edmunds St. John 2013 "Bone-Jolly" El Dorado County Witters Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé ($19.99)
Clear rosy pink, the rich color of wild Alaskan line-caught salmon, not Atlantic farmed. [wink] Good, fresh berry scent, wild strawberries maybe, subtle not overpowering. Fresh and crisp, mouth-filling red fruit and zippy, lemon-squirt acidity. Mouth-watering and delicious, a solid but not overwhelming 13% alcohol. Fine with summer fare or sipped on its own. (July 2, 2014)
FOOD MATCH: Excellent on the first night with a light, summery fresh garden salad with a light tomato vinaigrette and bite-size bits of fried chicken. The leftovers were just as good the next day with a spicy okra-and-tomato gumbo.
WHEN TO DRINK: WineLovers Discussion Group participants have reported startling longevity in the bottle, with the 2006 recently reported as still drinking well. I'm not sure I would risk eight years, but quality production and a sturdy metal screwcap do ensure reasonable cellaring time.
VALUE: My $20 local retail price was bang on target with Wine-Searcher.com's national average price. While this might seem a little spendy for a pink wine, this one's worth it for balance, finesse and class coupled with just plain good flavor.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find online vendors for Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Rosé on Wine-Searcher.com. To locate additional sources in regions where it's distributed, check this List of distributors in U.S. states (and Japan) on the winery Website.
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