Culture / Foodie Events

Wine Snobs Begone: This Disrespected Grape Should Not Be Shunned — Try it For Only $11

BY // 09.07.15

A glass of wine (or two) a day is a great thing, for a few great reasons. Health is one of them. Pleasure is another. As Goethe said, “Wine rejoices the heart of man and joy is the mother of all virtues.” And then there’s edification.

People often tell me they feel frustrated about the wine learning curve, and express “fear” that they will never understand how to “taste” and talk about wine. I respond, always, in one way: Drink more wine, and drink a variety of wines. There’s a big world out there, and while it is understandable that one has a favorite (mine is Riesling), if you order a Chardonnay nine times out of 10, you are missing out on a lot of pleasure, learning and tastes. (I will not be discussing wine snobs here, because I mostly ignore and pity them.)

Which brings me to Gamay, a grape that is often dismissed, and has been persecuted for centuries, as this Wikipedia entry demonstrates:

The Gamay grape is thought to have appeared first in the village of the Gamay, south of Beaune, in the 1360s.[3] The grape brought relief to the village growers following the decline of the Black Death. In contrast to the Pinot noir variety, Gamay ripened two weeks earlier and was less difficult to cultivate. It also produced a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance.

In July 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Philippe the Bold outlawed the cultivation of the grape, referring to it as the “disloyal Gaamez” that in spite of its ability to grow in abundance was full of “very great and horrible harshness”,[4] due in part to the variety’s occupation of land that could be used for the more “elegant” Pinot Noir. Sixty years later Philippe the Good issued another edict against Gamay in which he stated the reasoning for the ban is that “The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation”.[5]

Poor Gamay. But wait; if all you know about the grape is Beaujolais Nouveau, get to the store (or your favorite wine bar) and explore. (I am working on a longer piece on the grape and its resurgence, so look for it in this space soon.) I bought a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages this past week (100 percent Gamay) and enjoyed it immensely. It was a 2013, from Michel Picard. The grapes are grown on a hill near the village of Saint-Etienne des Ouilliers in clay and limestone. This wine is low in tannin, of course, and a raspberry flavor was dominant. I served it at around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and paired it with a dish of sautéed arugula and Italian sausage (it included crushed garlic and plenty of olive oil), and I and my guests were perfectly content. You can find this at most retail outlet for around $11.

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