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Gamay noir is planted in only a few small blocks of vines in Oregon. Most are blended into Pinot noir. Of the few Gamay noirs made in Oregon, the wines of Brick House, Evening Lands Vineyards, and Amity Vineyards stand out.

The Gamay noir of Brick House put Oregon Gamay noir on the map. US and international wine writers have praised it. Robinson says: "Brick House in Oregon makes the pre-eminent example (of Gamay noir) in the US".

"Celebration", the Gamay noir of new Oregon/California hybrid winery Evening Lands Vineyards, received a glowing review from Robinson, who said: "Very fresh Gamay nose with lovely pure fruit underneath. Again lots of acidity, like the Chardonnay, with a dry finish. Crunchy crisp. Seriously appetising. This would make a great summer drink and is yet another non-French Gamay that encourages us to look at Beaujolais again...".

Gamay noir from Beaujolais is famously drunk as "Beaujolais Nouveau" starting at the end of November, when the first wines of the vintage are jetted to New York City, where they are opened with great fanfare. Over marketing and lower quality have recently reduced interest in "Nouveau".

Gamay noir is the primary black grape of France's Beaujolais region, where the wines are typically fermented, spared from aging, and consumed young to appreciate their fresh, fruity qualities, with more tang than tannin.

In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy, Phillip the Bold, ordered Gamay vineyards to be torn out and banned the variety evermore from being planted in the vineyards of Burgundy, so that it would not compete with Pinot Noir. Although this decree nearly erradicated Gamay altogether, it found a new home to the south in Beaujolais.

The name is so closely associated with Beaujolais, that many vineyard plantings and wines, in California especially, were incorrectly identified as the variety "Gamay Beaujolais" for many years (an illegal practice after 2007). Gamay is also planted, but is less significant, in the Loire, Rhône, Jura and Savoie appellations of France.

Although gamay noir vines grow with moderate vigor in many soil types, it seems partial to granite and limestone soils. Gamay can be quite productive, averaging five to seven tons per acre. Heavy crop loads may slow growth to below average, as well as reduce fruit quality, so crop thinning is often used to control this tendency.

Gamay begins its annual cycle early as grapes go, budding and flowering early and may therefore become victim to early Spring frosts. Ripening is usually early to mid-season. Both the clusters and juicy berries of gamay noir are large and it is a relatively easy variety to pick, with relatively thin but tough skins. The true full name of this grape is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc; there are, however, some clones of teinturier gamays, with colored rather than clear juice.

Generally light in color with hue that usually is more blue-purple than red, wines made from gamay noir can be very fragrant, full of fruit and fresh, floral esters. Frequently tart in their youth, wines made from gamay noir tend nonetheless to be short lived. Like its distant cousins, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Gamay tends to easily lose its varietal aroma and flavor identity when blended with another grape variety. Both red wines and rosés are typically produced from unblended gamay noir.

The technique of carbonic maceration is quite often used to enhance the fruitiness of this grape. The fruit is placed whole, uncrushed, in the fermenting vessel and the fermentation begins within the individual berries, trapping the forming bubbles of carbon dioxide until the grape bursts. The resulting wine has a lighter, yet brighter color, a "banana", "candy" or "bubblegum" quality in the fruity aroma, often accompanied by a slight petillance or "tickle" to the texture.

Gamay info reprinted with permission of Jim LaMar.

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