Earlier this week I read this fascinating article in The Wine Society that talked about historical pricing for the wines of Burgundy versus the wines of their close southern neighbour, Beaujolais. It’s now almost universally agreed that the Pinot Noir-based wines of Burgundy are superior to the Gamay-based wines of Beaujolais, but such was not always the case. The writer, Jim Sykes, recounts a fascinating story from a century ago:
But the most extraordinary comparison that I have come across relates to Beaujolais' Moulin-à-Vent and a certain grand cru vineyard in the heart of Burgundy. In 1932 Henri Mommessin, head of one of Beaujolais' largest négociant houses, bumped into a friend in the street. Seeing that his friend looked rather down in the mouth Mommessin asked what the problem was. His friend explained that he'd been attending an auction in Beaune with the sole aim of snapping up a parcel of Moulin-à-Vent that he'd been keen to acquire, but that the price had risen too high and he'd ended up missing out. 'So what did you do?' enquired M. Mommessin. 'Well I used the money I'd taken with me to buy another vineyard that was being offered in the same sale – Clos de Tart'.
Today a hectare of Moulin-à-Vent would change hands for around €100,000; whilst in late 2017 Clos de Tart was bought by François Pinault (France's third richest man) for an eye-watering €280 million (or €35 million per hectare)!
Such is the plight of modern Gamay. But if not being quite as exalted as Burgundy is the test, then arguably every grape and every other wine region also falls short. And the reality is that a well-made Gamay is a thing of light, ethereal beauty. The grape should be a natural for the climate of the Okanagan, where our climate will help foster the acidity that’s is the lifeblood of every great Gamay, but for the most part our wineries have stayed away. You have Blue Mountain, who are the OGs of Gamay in the province, Haywire, who I suppose are the New Gs. Bella are the Sparkling Gs and there are a few others Gs like Pentage, JoieFarm and Volcanic Hills, who are also true believers. But you can add a new G—Rust, who are donating $5 for every magnum of Gamay they sell to the BC Hospitality Fund, are the Charitable Gs of Gamay.
We love the BCHF, and the work they’re doing is all the more important to an industry that’s been slammed by the pandemic. But to tell you the truth, I’d be singing about this wine even without the charity. It’s exactly the type of Gamay I love: low in alcohol (12.8%!), high in acidity and light as a featherweight boxing champ on its feet. Somms love to call a wine "crunchy", and this is a textbook example of that: great tart cherry notes and a structure that’s no wallflower. Bringing a magnum of this to a party—total baller move. One other small thing I love? Rust goes with Gamay as opposed to the more common in BC Gamay Noir. The latter always sounds to me like some sort of 1970s hybrid grape that removes the enamel from your teeth. Whereas the former? Sounds like a wine that once challenged Burgundy for red wine supremacy.
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