When offered Gamay, some wine drinkers stamp their feet and angrily gnash their teeth: they simply cannot abide it. Others consider Gamay something that makes being alive tolerable, at times. Gamay is a bit polarizing, like cilantro. I’m in the latter category, and while I accept that some folks cannot enjoy Gamay, I really do not understand them. Of course, there’s garbage Gamay out there, soulless industrial wines of the sort served in the waiting room to Hell, but the good stuff is enlivening, energizing, and will put a jig in your gait. You will find good Gamay always stocked at my shop—originating not only from the heartland of the grape, Beaujolais, but also from places like the Loire, California’s Sierra Foothills, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Gamay has different faces, and this time of year I favor light and crunchy expressions. During the dog days of summer it’s a good to have a few bottles of lighter-bodied red wines on hand: refreshing, lower-alcohol wines that welcome a bit of a chilling and work well with a range of foods, but can also make for a refreshing apéritif. With that in mind, here are three dog day Gamays. Two are from Beaujolais, one is from the Loire, and all three are easy on your palate and on your pocketbook.
I also want to call your attention to Epulo, an exquisite cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil ($35) of which I was fortunate to land a few bottles. It’s made from cucurbita pepo, a pumpkin cultivar grown primarily for its seeds. This raw oil is entirely different from the Styrian toasted pumpkinseed oil you may have had. It’s from Croatia, startlingly green in color, very light bodied and bright tasting, with an agreeably fruity pumpkin-y finish. The Baŝič family presses their oil at cool temperature and bottle without filtration. Use this oil as you would any fine finishing extra virgin olive oil (e.g., in a salad, or as a condiment for cold boiled beef).
JP Brun Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes 2012 $18 (12.5% alc)
Amongst certain circles of Beaujolais appreciators, Jean Paul Brun is a beloved figure. He’s a big bear of a man who looks like he could be a retired linebacker. He has a penchant for dozing off amidst the buzz of a busy tasting or supper (I speculate not from boredom, but probably from lack of sleep). Brun certainly does not make hipster wine, but does indeed farm organically, hand picks his fruit, and ferments using native yeasts. His basic Beaujolais (both red and white—alas, the current vintage of his Beaujolais blanc is sold out) is from vines that are well over 80 years old, and the age of the vines confers additional layers of texture and flavor. 2012 was a challenging vintage in Beaujolais, with yields down 50 percent for many growers. The fruit that remained on the vine yielded vibrant, fresh wines that are perfect for near term consumption.
Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette” 2012 $18 (12% alc)
Pierre-Marie Chermette makes structured cru Beaujolais that demands time in the cellar before it is ready to drink. This, his basic Beaujolais, is a very pretty wine with a very pretty label, and it’s frightening how quickly it disappears down your increasingly happy gullet. No filtration, so expect a tiny bit of schmutz in the bottle. This is the Beaujolais to drink to reset your game after you get home from a day of schlepping around in the heat and dust.
Domaine du Fresche Anjou Gamay 2011 (12.5% alc)
This is a foursquare tasting Gamay from younger vines, certified organic since 2004. It’s from dark, schistous soil (the two Beaujolais wines described above are from sandy granite), and is medium bodied with luscious, chewy sapidity, grapey without being Welch’s.