Vin de France & Grape Varieties


Encyclopedia of French Grape Varieties

{ Red Wine } { Rosé Wine }

Red Rosé

This variety, originally from the area around Dijon, results from crossbreeding Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.

Gamay's aromas are predominantly fruity, with notes of raspberry, wild strawberry, blackberry and black cherry. Other peppery, floral flavors, namely peony, are also commonly associated with this variety.

Wines produced
When entire bunches of grapes are macerated, this variety can be used to make warm, fruity wines that are moderately colorful and have little tannin, which makes them generally unsuitable for ageing in bottles. They have a beautiful red color with hints of purple. Gamay wines have a good acid structure for a red wine, which makes them very refreshing, tangy and often very rich. In most cases, they are to be enjoyed young, and can be drunk chilled, which makes them very popular summer reds. When made using carbonic maceration of entire bunches, Gamay produces very fruity wines with typical candy and banana aromas. This variety can also be used to make elegant, fruity rosé wines.

Areas planted
Gamay is grown in many different cool regions in France, the first being the Center East, to the north of Lyon, in the area between Villefranche and Dijon. It is also found on the banks of the Moselle, in the Massif Central, in Auvergne and in Aveyron, as well as along the banks of the Loire, namely in near Tours. The number of hectares produced has remained relatively stable since 1968, with 35,000 hectares planted in 2006.

Budding and ripening
Gamay blooms quite early, at the sale time as Chasselas, the benchmark grape variety. If also ripens quite early, 1½ weeks after Chasselas. This makes it a Period I grape variety.

Gamay is a highly fertile yet not very vigorous grape variety. Its production must be carefully controlled, as it has a tendency to peter out, particularly in highly fertile soils in warm climates. When weather conditions are poor during flowering, in June (cold, rain), fertilization becomes difficult. As Gamay grows semi-upright to upright, it should be pruned short. If there are springtime frosts, the shoots from the secondary buds will be relatively productive. Gamay tends to produce many grappillons, small bunches of grapes that do not ripen and are not picked.

Preferred soils
Gamay clearly fares better in granitic soils, which allow it better express its richness and power. It also adapts very well to clay-limestone and limestone soils.

Ideal Climate
Gamay does not fare well in hot climates, which cause it to ripen too quickly. This grape variety needs continental or oceanic climates with cool nights during ripening in order to fully express all of its qualities. This explains why it is mainly planted in central-eastern France.

Susceptibility to disease and pests
Gamay N is susceptible to gray mold, dead arm disease, wood diseases, grape berry moths and yellowing edges.

Gamay is used only to produce wine.

Distinctive features
The tips of young Gamay shoots are sparsely to moderately covered with flat-lying hairs. The new shoots are herbaceous with red internodes. The young leaves are yellow with bronze patches.

Clones marketed
The thirty-five approved Gamay clones (specifically named Gamay R) are numbers 102, 105, 106, 166, 167, 222, 282, 283, 284, 285, 355, 356, 357, 358, 359, 426, 427, 428, 488, 489, 490, 509, 510, 511, 512, 564, 565, 615, 616, 656, 657, 787, 1060, 1108 and 1109. A conservatory of 415 clones was planted in 2006 in the Rhône.

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