Gamay on

Aus­tralian wine­mak­ers are adding new char­ac­ter to the Beau­jo­lais sig­na­ture, writes MAX ALLEN.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Produce -

As you read these words, I shall be gorg­ing on an­douil­lette in a bou­chon in Lyon, chas­ing that par­cel of pun­gent porky bits with a glass or two of vivid-pur­ple young Beau­jo­lais, the lo­cal red wine grown in the hills to the north of the an­cient city.

I love Beau­jo­lais, and the gamay grape from which it’s made. I love how it sits so per­fectly, stylis­ti­cally, be­tween the lighter-bod­ied, more ethe­real pinot noirs of Bur­gundy (fur­ther to the north again), and the fuller-bod­ied, darker, more struc­tural syrahs of the Rhône Val­ley to the south of Lyon. I love how its medium-weight-but-gutsy char­ac­ter makes gamay such a ver­sa­tile wine on the ta­ble, match­ing ev­ery­thing from the light­est fish dishes and sal­ads to the rich­est, stinki­est sausages.

You don’t need to travel to Lyon to en­joy good gamay, of course. There has been a surge of in­ter­est in this gor­geous grape since I last wrote about it four years ago; Aus­tralian bot­tle-shop shelves and restau­rant lists are now lit­tered with ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples.

The num­ber of su­perb Beau­jo­lais wines from the re­gion’s top gamay grow­ers avail­able here con­tin­ues to grow: look for the wines of Mar­cel Lapierre, Daniel Bouland, Château Thivin and Domaine du Vis­soux, among oth­ers. These wines are hugely pop­u­lar with som­me­liers (see: food-friend­li­ness, above), and our restau­rant lists are par­tic­u­larly happy hunt­ing grounds, not least be­cause most of the cur­rently avail­able wines are from two very good vin­tages – un­usu­ally ripe, fruit-in­tense 2015s and more clas­si­cal, finer, juicier 2016s.

More ex­cit­ingly, per­haps, the num­ber of Aus­tralian­grown gamays has more than dou­bled re­cently, with many new wines made for the first time dur­ing the 2017 vin­tage. From be­ing an un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated va­ri­ety made by just a hand­ful of stal­wart pro­duc­ers (mostly in Vic­to­ria: Sor­ren­berg in Beech­worth, Bass Phillip in Gipp­s­land, Pfeif­fer in Ruther­glen, and Eldridge Es­tate on the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula), gamay is now crop­ping up all over the place.

The re­ju­ve­nated Mead­ow­bank vine­yard in Tas­ma­nia’s Der­went Val­ley pro­duces a bright pur­ple, lithe 2017 gamay, with lead­ing lo­cal wine­maker Peter Dredge bring­ing his gen­tle touch with pinot noir to bear on the clas­sic bistro grape. Up in the Can­berra District, chef turned wine­maker Bryan Martin brings a gas­tro­nomic sen­si­bil­ity to the juicy, vi­brant gamay he’s been mak­ing un­der his Ravensworth la­bel for the last cou­ple of years, us­ing grapes grown in the high-coun­try vine­yards of Tum­barumba.

And over in the Ade­laide Hills, gamay ap­peared in a num­ber of new guises out of the 2017 vin­tage: as a fine, frothy pet-nat from BK Wines; blended with pinot noir to make a pretty fra­grant red at Brack­en­wood (re­viewed here ear­lier this year); and as a tangy, edgy medium-bod­ied red called The Price of Si­lence at Ochota Barrels.

Vic­to­ria, though, stakes its claim as the gamay state, with most of the new ex­am­ples of the grape emerg­ing from the cooler re­gions around Mel­bourne.

In the high-al­ti­tude Mace­don Ranges to the north of the city, long-es­tab­lished win­ery Gran­ite Hills pro­duced a de­li­ciously juicy wine from its first crop of gamay in 2017, while over near Lance­field, new win­ery Lyons Will Es­tate also harvested its in­au­gu­ral crop, pro­duc­ing an el­e­gant and pretty ex­pres­sion of the grape.

Down in the Gee­long re­gion, south-west of Mel­bourne, Nick Farr grafted some gamay vines onto a block of old caber­net sau­vi­gnon plants a few years

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