Gamay is one of the most popular and polarizing grapes in the world. Millions of people enjoy it as Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages or as a wine from one of the criminally underrated Beaujolais Cru villages (Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin a Vent, etc.). Millions of others write the wines off out of hand citing their lack of complexity or lack of aging potential or their lack of seriousness. B The wine and the grape get a bad rap because Beaujolais is, at heart, just plain fun and it seems somehow wrong that a beverage as expensive and serious as wine should ever stoop to the level of fun.
The Gamay hate has deep historical roots. In 1395, Philip the Bold, the youngest son of King John II who was barred from the throne because of the claim his older brothers had to it, was then the Duke of Burgundy. He issued an edict that all Gamay be "extirpated, destroyed and reduced to nothing" and described the grape as "the vile and noxious gamay plant, from which plant comes a very great abundance of wine...which wine is of such nature that it is most injurious to the human creature...for it is full of a very great and horrible bitterness."
Well, Gamay eventually found itself a home in the Beaujolais region of Burgundy and is also grown in the Loire Valley, Switzerland, Canada and Oregon (for those interested, Rudolf Chelminski's I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made it the World's Most Popular Wine is a great history of the Gamay grape, the Beaujolais region and George DuBoeuf, the man who made Beaujolais famous again). The wine in question today, though, is from the Beaujolais region of France, where millions and millions of bottles of wine are produced and shipped all over the world. Have I decided to drop the Fringe Wine mantle and go full mainstream? Not exactly. The wine being examined today is a sparkling Beaujolais. No, not a sparkling Beaujolais like Champagne is sparking Pinot Noir. Today's wine is not even a blush wine made from Beaujolais. No, today's wine is a full-on red sparkling wine made from 100% Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region.
Domaine des Nugues is an estate wine producer in a region dominated by negociants. Most of the wine produced in Beaujolais comes from giants like George DuBoeuf who buy grapes and juice from local growers and make the wine at a large commercial winery. These large companies may own some vineyard area, but much of their juice is bought from farmers who don't have the resources and/or the desire to create their own wine from their grapes. It appears that Domaine des Nugues is one of the few exceptions. They appear to own vineyards in various parts of Beaujolais and vinify and bottle their own estate wines. The sparkler is called "Made by G" and it's made from grapes from 25 year old vines. The wine is fermented using the traditional Champagne method. I was able to pick up a bottle from my friends at Bin Ends for around $19.
In the glass, the wine is a bright, pinkish purple with fairly heavy effervescence. As far as I could tell, this was a NV bottling, so the bright color was a good indication that this was still pretty youthful. The nose was pretty reserved, especially for a sparkler, with some cranberry aromas in there. In the mouth, the wine tasted like it had a touch of sweetness. The Domaine's website says that there is no residual sugar in the wine and that the sweet sensation comes from picking very ripe fruit, but I have my doubts. The alcoholic content here is only 9% and I find it nearly impossible to believe that super-ripe fruit would ferment to full dryness and only end up at 9% abv. Whatever the reason for it, this was just a touch sweet, though it's not a dessert wine by any means. This is fully sparkling and not just frizzante like sparkling Italian reds tend to be. The acid here is pretty high and there are cranberry and tart cherry flavors. Overall, this is a pretty simple wine that's pleasant and easy-going and really, what more would you expect from Gamay? Serve this with just a slight chill on it and then treat it like you would any other wine from Beaujolais. As long as you don't expect it to completely blow your mind, Gamay does it have its small pleasures and its place at the table.