Tuesday, July 21, 2009
On Board With Gamay
“Sam, come here and try these two wines” it was Randy calling me from the tasting room where he was sitting with an importer. He was wearing that Randy grin….the one I had seen a thousand times before, the one that meant one of two things, he was either really excited about the wines or he was trying to test my palate. This was years ago, long before I was the French wine buyer at The Wine Country, but I did have a love for all things French….except for one.
I tasted both wines the importer poured for me, one I loved, a Cabernet Franc from the Loire, the other I hated, also from Loire but made from Gamay. Randy was trying to trick me, it drove him mad that I hated Gamay, he thought it was all in my head, like I didn’t think it was noble or fancy, which I didn’t but the fact of the matter was, they simply tasted like poo to me and I hated them. We would go round and round every Thanksgiving, he telling me it was the best match for the meal and me telling him that I didn’t give a crap because I wasn’t drinking any stoopid Gamay with my meal, no matter how well it paired. We drove each other bonkers for years about this one thing, like he saw this a some giant character flaw or snobby thing about me and I was annoyed that he would not just give up and let me hate them.
On my first trip to France we stayed in Beaujolais for a night, quite frankly it was the dumpiest, nastiest little hovel of a hotel I had ever stayed in, (now that coveted title belongs to the hotel where I stayed in St Emillion….gross) and to top it off, when I opened my window there was a beehive just below it….fantastic, go from drinking Burgundy for six days to a crap hole of a hotel in Beaujolais, where there are bees hunting me AND I have to drink Beaujolais. Let’s just say, that trip did nothing to change my mind.
I was not until last year that I opened up to Beaujolais, we had been in Burgundy for 4 days, tasting nothing but way too young, (2006/2007) Burgundy, it was a grueling schedule, up to 19 appointments in one day. My palate was fried, my teeth were stinging and I had reached my breaking point on super rich food. Never thought I would say it but I was ready to get the hell outta Beaune. Well all that and I was drinking the hotel out of Billecart-Salmon Rose so it was time to move on…..poor little dude at the bar was convinced that I was gonna barf one of those nights, silly man.
We arrived in Beaujolais early in the afternoon, the sun was out but it was still quite chilly, (January) our little troop of tasters filed into the sunroom of the estate we were visiting, and all took a seat. I was less than thrilled but really digging the company, those dudes in Beaujolais like to party. They brought out platter after platter of house cured pork products, and started pouring us their wines, the whole while poking fun at one another and drinking a fair bit themselves, it all just felt so comfortable and convivial. I took a few slabs of Jambon Persille, (Ham and parsley terrine) some saucisson and some bread and prepared myself to taste….the dreaded Gamay.
Those wines, with that food, after days of palate burning young Burgundy, they just made sense, they tasted so fresh, no vibrant and simply delicious. Took me 13 years to get on board but now I find myself even craving a little Beaujolais from time to time, still won’t touch the Nouveau crap, don’t care how festive it is, it’s vile and I aint doin it! Especially when it’s as hot as it is right now, a lightly chilled bottle of Beaujolais or Anjou Gamay with whatever off the grill….heaven.
2005 Pierre-Bise Anjou Gamay ($17.99) More densely packed than Beaujolais this wine leans more towards black fruit with a compelling earthy component, black pepper and flint. The palate is rather full for Gamay and there are a fair amount of grippy tannins on the finish…red meat, think red meat.
2007 Lapierre Morgon ($21.99) Hands-down my favorite Beaujolais almost every year, even back when I didn’t like em’! Wild strawberries, cranberries and spice. Light in the mouth, ultra refreshing with a snappy, crisp, nervy finish. Pretty enough to pair nicely with everything from meat to fish…or you can do as I do, just suck it up.
2005 Olivier Merlin Fleurie ($24.99) Such a delicate Beaujolais, loaded with violets and spice, the palate has pretty, tart, red fruit and more spice but the finish is floral as all get out. My go to wine for summer sipping along with thin slices of cured meat and gooey, pungent cheeses.