Move Over Pinot Noir…There’s competition for that Thanksgiving Turkey!


A Beautiful Fleurie at Institut Paul Bocuse, Lyon, France

Pinot Noir is the traditional perfect pairing with Thanksgiving turkey. On the DeLong’s Varietal Chart, it is in the light-welterweight category, highly acidic, …”fragrant, floral, cherries, red currants, raspberries, gamey, ageing to vegetal, mushrooms.”

But another red wine that is an excellent, affordable alternative is from the southern end of Burgundy, just north of Lyon, France. That grape is Gamay from Beaujolais. These wines, not to be confused with the effervescent Beaujolais Nouveau, have names like Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and Beaujolais-Villages, just to name a few.

On my DeLong’s varietal chart, Gamay is of medium acidity, lightweight…”aromatic, cherries, raspberries, hint of black pepper, banana and pear flavours often experienced come from added yeast”.

Gamay has a checkered past because it is easy to grow and therefore produces high yields that are not associated with quality. Pinot Noir, on the other hand, is a very finicky grape that is difficult to grow and is best when it “suffers”, thus producing lower yields and higher quality, for the most part.

Philip the Bold, a Burgundian Duke, issued a decree in the 15th century to have all the Gamay ripped out and establish Pinot Noir as the noble grape of the region. The edict was pretty much ignored, but over time and with the Phylloxera (louse) plague that wiped out much of the Old World grapes in the 1880s, Gamay was ripped out in Burgundy, and Pinot Noir was clearly established as THE red grape of Burgundy.

But, luckily for Gamay and the rest of us, it found a home just to the south in Beaujolais and flourishes nicely today, providing affordable, pleasant wines to all the world. For more on the history of Burgundy, you may enjoy “Pearl of the Côte” by Allen Meadows, the “Burghound”, an American Burgundy critic who is an expert on the region and its wines.

So, I propose to you that you go to your local wine shop for Thanksgiving wine and ask for a Gamay from Beaujolais…not Beaujolais Nouveau, but one from the appellations I mentioned above.

Until next time…à votre santé and Happy Thanksgiving from the Grape Gazette!

Photo by Christine Humphrey ©2012

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