When it comes to accompaniment for turkey and trimmings at Thanksgiving this year, I’ve decided I’m going all-in on Gamay as my wine of choice. The red-grape native of France’s Beaujolais region makes for juicy and generally buoyant wines that are enjoyable sippers, particularly when served with a hint of a chill. I always like to think that Gamay’s bright-red and purple fruit can act sort of like the cranberry sauce that provides a nice contrast to the salty, savoury character of turkey and gravy and such. More often than not, they’re affordable crowd pleasers, too! Here are a few recent faves.
Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2018 (Okanagan Valley, B.C.; $24 to $28, private wine stores), coming out of Summerland’s Okanagan Crush Pad, is a pretty and pink take on the grape. The fruit is sourced a little farther south, from Oliver’s Secrest Mountain Vineyard, where alluvial, gravel, and limestone soils provide the setting for organic-farming practices. Fermented in a combination of stainless steel and concrete tanks, the wine is zippy and fresh, with Rainier cherries and raspberries and a few sprigs of basil and mint. It’s available at many private wine stores around town and was most recently spotted at Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street.
Caroline and Tim Cottrill have been organically farming their Robin Ridge vineyard in the windswept Similkameen Valley since 1997, and it’s from this vineyard that we get Robin Ridge Gamay 2015 (Similkameen Valley, B.C.; $22.99, B.C. Liquor Stores). Many years back, it was Robin Ridge that got me into British Columbian Gamay, and I fall in love all over again each time I check in with a new vintage. A little richer and meatier than their Beaujolais brethren, I find that besides British Columbian Gamays offering a little more oomph, they can also be a little more spice- and herb-driven. All of that is exhibited here, where sunbaked cherries, mulberries, and plums mingle with clove, cardamom, and a smudge of dusty sage.
Other local Gamay gems to keep an eye out for include releases from Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, Orofino Winery, and Desert Hills Estate Winery (there’s a good lashing of bacon in that one!), and any sparkling you can track down from winemaker Jay Drysdale’s Bella Wines in Naramata. In fact, just this past weekend, a colleague and I enjoyed a bottle of Bella Wines Gamay Noir Pet-Nat Mariani Vineyard with a brunch of lyonnaise salad with duck-confit lardon, frisée, and poached egg at L’Abattoir in Gastown (217 Carrall Street). Gamay is fantastic at any time of day!
From vines with an average age of 50, we have Jean-Paul Brun’s Domaine des Terres Dorées Moulin-à-Vent 2016 (Beaujolais, France; $32.99, B.C. Liquor Stores), a handsome, broad-shouldered Gamay that’ll be a great choice for those who want a bit more heft in the bottle. The fruit is hand-sorted, destemmed, and crushed, then fermented with indigenous yeast in both concrete and Burgundy oak barrels. Stirred red plums, blueberries, and dark cherries are flecked with thyme and ride a strong current of acidity and mineral character. We’re used to drinking our Beaujolais rather young, but this one can lay down a few years, easy.
Dominique Piron Morgon La Chanaise 2016 (Beaujolais, France; $26.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) also comes from well-steeped 50-year-old vines and is aged in large, neutral oak barrels to offer structure rather than flavour. Cherries are bountiful on the palate and are lightly dusted with dark cocoa, fruity tobacco, and thyme. The tannins are soft and integrated well, making the wine easily approachable and a pleasure to drink.
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages Combe aux Jacques 2017 (Beaujolais, France; $22.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) is grown in granite, clay, and calcareous soils, mostly in the southern part of the Beaujolais region. The wine macerates with the skins, and there isn’t any oak treatment. Juicy and totally crushable with red currants, raspberries, Red Haven peaches, Bing cherries, and a little hibiscus in there, too, the wine is light on its feet and mighty refreshing. The best part? It’s two dollars off at B.C. Liquor Stores through October 26, making what was already a bargain of a quality wine into quite the steal! For that, we can be truly thankful.