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Gamay grape variety

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There are several types of Gamay. The most well-known is the 'Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc' (black skinned with white juice) and its many clones. But there are also the Gamay Fréaux, the 'Gamay de Chaudenay' and the 'Gamay de Bouze' which not only have a black skin but also have a more or less coloured juice. Many synonyms and other related varieties of Gamay exist :

See the Gamay varieties


Characteristics :

The Black skinned Gamay with white juice has pink downy buds. Its' leaves are shiny, yellowish green. Fully grown leaves are round with 3 or 5 lobes depending on the selection, have V-shaped sinus petioles which are more or less open, relatively short angular serrated edges and smooth stems.
In Autumn the leaves turn partially red. The herbaceous limbs develop a copper coloured hue on the inter-nodes which are sun exposed. The grape berry clusters can be differently shaped according to the selection, ranging from the small clustered clone 565 to the long, well supported clone 656.
The clusters have elliptically shaped berries of which a certain percentage have stopped their development (partial abortion) since the Gamay variety is sensitive to climatic change during florescence.
The grape berries are a violet- black colour with a bluish waxy coating and a thin skin which means that the Gamay grape is sensitive to rot. The pulp of the Black skinned Gamay with white juice is colourless.

Aptitudes :

Gamay is a grape variety with an early bud break ,which means it is sensitive to spring frosts. It offsets this handicap by developing secondary buds. It has a short vegetative cycle which allows it to be qualified as an early grape variety. It is not particularly sturdy and has a variable growth depending on the variety.
It has a great capacity for adaptation, (except to climates that are extremely hot) and can be found in numerous French vineyards as well as abroad, even if it's elected soil remains the granitic slopes of the Beaujolais region.
The Gamay grape is sensitive to disease, especially powdery mildew and noble rot.

Historical origins :

The Gamay variety is mostly found in the Burgundy, Beaujolais and Macon regions. This was not always the case: it was in the 3rd century AD under roman influence that vines were first planted in the region surrounding Lyon. Before this time they were only found in the south in and around the Mediterranean region.
As far as the grape variety itself is concerned, it is impossible to locate its origins. Was it the Romans who introduced the variety or was it already present on French soil?

Biological origins :

The Gamay can trace it's origins back to the family of creeper plants (Ampelidaceae) . It belongs to the vitis vinifera species which groups together all vine plants capable of producing wine. It has evolved from the natural hybridisation of the Gouais B and pinot N variety. 20 other grape varieties originate from this cross.
The Gouais is a grape variety that has almost disappeared. It's implantation was widespread in the middle ages. Highly productive and acid, it can produce wine in large quantities which is easy to conserve.
The Pinot (bourguignon and champenois) is still cultivated today. It is the hallmark of a fine wine.
Two ancestors of a completely different type, one with a potential for quantity yield, the other with a potential for quality, one white, the other red, one which has almost disappeared, the other which is still cultivated… but which have combined to produce a quality hybrid.

Origine du Gamay

World distribution :

In 2000 the Gamay variety covered around 37 000 hectares worldwide, 34 000 hectares of which are in France and of which 23 000 are found in the Beaujolais region. The 3000 remaining hectares are scattered across the globe :
See the Gamay in the world

Tasting appreciations :

The Gamay variety produces a red ,fruity, supple wine which can be drunk young.

Glossary :

Hybridisation : Hybridisation or cross breeding is the sexed cross, be it natural or controlled (flower pollination, castration ) between two grape varieties which thereby produces a new variety.
Coloured/tinted : A coloured/tinted Gamay is the result of the mutation of a Gamay N variety which produces grapes with a coloured pulp.
Mutant : A mutant is a being which has undergone a transformation of its genetic make-up. Genetic mutation occurs naturally. The phenomenon is due to physical or chemical changes of the DNA as a result of, for example, the radiation of the sun's rays. If these changes affect the reproductive cells, they will be passed onto descendants. Depending on the characteristics they produce the characteristics will be retained (favourable mutation) or eliminated (negative mutation) by natural selection.
Clone : A clone is a vegetative descendant which is conform to a chosen strain chosen for its identity, phenotype (agronomical) and sanitary characteristics.
The bud break : this is a moment of the year when the buds develop and the down becomes visible. This term refers to the young leaves and flowers which are concealed within the buds, and which consequently develop.
Secondary buds : these develop when the primary buds have been destroyed by frost or another cause.
Early grape variety : in the Pulliat classification system early varieties are qualified as being those which mature 10 days before the reference grape variety : the Chasselas doré.
The Pulliat classification system : this is the classification method which defines grape varieties according to their maturity compared to that of the reference variety ( the chasselas doré) An early variety is one which matures ten days before the Chasselas variety.First period varieties mature at the same time as the chasselas. Second period varieties mature 24 to 35 days after the Chasselas.Third period varieties mature 36 days after the Chasselas. This classification is still in use. It has been revised and corrected by the University of California, Davis (Winkler and Amerine) who proposed the Winkler scale as a classification tool by integrating temperature as part of the maturation calculation.

References : Onivins - Inter Beaujolais - OIV (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin) - 1970/2010 Beaujolais Sicarex