#MyWineAdventure Contest Trivia Question #3

It's that time again, coming to you with another question for another chance to enter to win a #MyWineAdventure trip for 4, with Farm to Glass Wine Tours. Like, Tag and Share!

Question #3 is Guess the Grape Day! Here's the description, then go answer in Instagram, then swipe to see if you were right!

What grape am I: I'm red, light in body and tannin with juicy acidity, silky texture and flavours of red fruits, spice and minerality?






It's Gamay! The delightful grape grows so well in various locations of the Okanagan, and I highlight this grape because it's had such a bad reputation that dates back to the 14th century. No joke, this grape has been bullied and picked on by royalty, who referred Gamay to as "evil and disloyal" and "injurious to the human creature".

Bad start Gamay, I'm so sorry. It will get better. Soon-ish. Like 600 years later soon-ish.

Here are the Coles notes, Farm to Glass style:

So some important French dude in the 1400s was like, “Ew. I don’t like it. It’s bitter and yucky, and I don’t want it growing here”

This isn’t verbatim, but I kinda wish it was, spoken from the Burgundian Duke, Philip the Bold.

Bold with his hatred of Gamay, jerk. Hahahahaha.

Farmers back then knew that Gamay grew well and easier than it’s relative, Pinot Noir. But Pinot Noir brought in the big bucks from the boogie peeps in Paris, so Pinot Noir it was.

Fast-forward to the 1980s, hammer pants, neon everything and hypercolour shirts…. And the marketing genius (or downfall) of Beaujolais Nouveau. This wine put Gamay on the worldwide map, but for many wine connoisseurs, it was for all the wrong reasons.

It was selling like crazy worldwide and created a buzz for farmers to plant Gamay everywhere possible, even if it wasn’t an ideal site for plantings. This led to poor quality wine, and a lasting impression on many to steer clear of this already underappreciated variety. Eventually, this trend slowed down, (though it is still very popular in certain countries). Many grape farmers ended up abandoning their land and moved on to other things. When I travelled to the Beaujolais region back in 2018, it was still common to see abandoned vineyards.  Here's me hanging out at Domaine de fond-Vielle in the village of Oingt, in the Beaujolais region:

Jess from Farm to Glass Wine Tours hanging out with a vineyard in the Beaujolais Region

For those who may not know, “nouveau” was a style of wine that is released the same year as the harvest. It’s super light and fresh, often made with a technique called carbonic maceration, and can flavour profiles like banana, red fruit and bubblegum. It has rules to when it can be released for sale (the third Thursday of November), and can only sell for so many weeks and should be drunk within 6 months.

I mean I get it, it benefits the winemaker as it gets some cash flow coming in right away, while their other wines are still being aged before release. Many wines need a minimum amount of aging before release, which can range from a few months for whites but in reds it's usually a minimum (though not always), 18-24 months after harvest, champagne method style wines can be even longer.

That's a lot of blood, sweat and tears to create all that wine, just sitting around for a while before any sales start rolling in. I seriously applaud winemakers just starting off, it might be 5-7 years after new plantings, harvest and aging before they will see some $$ from all their hard work. And with the cost of maintaining each acre of vines to be in the thousands of dollars per year, well... That's a lotta dolla bills y'all.

Here's some Gamay facts:

  • Gamay is related to Pinot Noir as well as the other Pinot grapes and Chardonnay.
  • Its heart and home is in the region of Beaujolais which is technically part of Burgundy/Bourgogne. They are sooooo completely different that it just makes sense to keep them separate.
  • It is an easier grape to grow than Pinot Noir, and often produces more grapes/yields as well.  
  • It does grow very well in a few other areas of the world, but nothing has the same reputation and following as the 10 crus of the Beaujolais region.
  • I've had a winemaker explain Gamay to be the type of grape that shows its personality right away, unlike Pinot Noir which is often shy and needs a few extra years of aging to really show its beauty.
  • Due to its higher acidity and lower tannins, Gamay is very versatile when it comes to pairing with food, and you can enjoy it with almost everything and is a crowd favourite with dinners involving a roast turkey.

In British Columbia, it is the 6th most planted red grape, coming in at 190 acres/77 hectares total.

Gamay acres by growing regions are:

  • Okanagan Valley 145 acres
  • Similkameen Valley 32 acres
  • Vancouver Island 14 acres
  • Fraser Valley 3 acres
  • Thompson Valley 2 acres
  • Shuswap 2 acres
  • Kootenays 0.5 acres

The only wine growing region in the Okanagan Valley where Gamay makes it into the top 4 main plantings is in West Kelowna at 36 acres/14.5 hectares.

There are a few clones of Gamay growing here in British Columbia, and these slight differences really highlight all the beauty and capability of the variety. The most common being clone 509, but there is also 787 as well as 358.

Some of my favourite Gamay producers are in both the Okanagan and Similkameen and include:

Bella Wines, Naramata ~ the only winery in BC dedicated exclusively sparkling wines, using various clones and sparkling methods, there are few producers that know this grape better than them
Orofino Winery, Cawston ~ always a favourite by all, and Gamay grown in the Similkameen truly does something special here
Robin Ridge Winery, Keremeos ~ this organic winery in the Similkameen makes fabulous single varietal wines, but is best known for their Gamay.

All three of the wineries are featured on Farm to Glass Wine Tours which you can find out more here.

My personal opinion, I think Gamay is such a great variety to grow here, it suits our growing season very well and checks all the boxes to being able to make such a variety of fantastic wine styles. There is a definite trend for this grape which is very well deserved, with local winemakers often seeking to get their hands on it from growers in the region, and are fetching some high prices per ton since there is so little of it growing here.

Guess this grape has found its place after all. Come discover it with me.

And as always,

Be Kind. Drink Wine.

xoxo Jess

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