Gamay, or Gamay Noir, is often unfairly dismissed as Pinot’s poor cousin. This may be due in part to a 14th Century edict by Philip the Bold of Burgundy that all Gamay vines in Burgundy be uprooted and destroyed, and replaced with Pinot Noir. Subsequently, Gamay was consigned to just the Beaujolais region and some tiny areas in the Loire Valley, where it is used in blending. Some cooler climate Australian regions, such as the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley are now growing Gamay. However, Gamay is essentially the vinous identity of Beaujolais, and in particular, Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais Nouveaux are wines made from Gamay fermented through Carbonic Maceration. This gives the wine a distinct bubble-gum, candied nose, light body, and little to no tannins. These Nouveau wines are designed to be drunk young, and there is a Beaujolais festival every year to mark the release of these wines - just 6 weeks after harvest!
There are also Beaujolais Villages Cru wines, released as dry reds the following year. From the lighter Brouilly, Regnie, and Chiroubles, to the more medium-bodied Fleurie, through to the heavier Moulin-a-Vent and Morgon, Gamay produces some exquisite wines. At the lighter end, the wines exhibit aromas of red berries and floral violet notes, while the heavier, more concentrated styles are earthier with darker fruit characters, and some oak.