Gamay is a red wine grape varietal used to make vibrant red wines, predominantly grown in the Beaujolais region of France. Its full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, and has been known and recorded as a distinct varietal for over 600 years, often referred to as Gamay Noir.
The Gamay grape is thought to have appeared first around the 1360's in the village of Gamay, south of Beaune - Burgundy. The varietal brought relief to the grape-growers of the region, following the decline after the Black Death.
Gamay ripened two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir and is less difficult to grow. It also crops at large levels, producing a more fruit driven style of wine. DNA analysis has shown the genetic parents of Gamay are Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.

 

In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy - (known as Phillip the Bold), ordered Gamay vines to be torn out and banned the varietal from being planted in the vineyards of Burgundy, so as not to compete with his favoured Pinot Noir. Although this decree nearly eradicated Gamay altogether, it found a new home in Beaujolais.
Gamay is a very vigorous vine, though with very shallow roots in the regions alkaline soils, results in vine stress - along with a relatively high level of natural acidity. The grapes acidity can be softened through 'carbonic maceration', a process that also gives the wine riper aromas and flavours, sometimes described as cranberries.
Gamay wines are typically light-medium bodied, with bright red fruit characters. Wines crafted with more fruit are ideal to be enjoyed with little age, where wines that have early flavours of sharp cherries, red peppers, dried fruits and red currants benefit from ageing. Gamay is well suited to the terroir of Beaujolais, plus it can be found grown quite successfully in the Loire Valley around Tours - where it is regularly blended with Cabernet Franc and Côt - (the local name for Malbec). These wines Loire wines have be described has having are similarities to Crus Beaujolais, with red berries and the signature fresh-peppery note.
Gamay is also the grape of the Beaujolais Nouveau, produced exclusively from selected vineyards in southern Beaujolais where the grapes natural lively characters are ideal for the process of carbonic maceration.