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Monday, October 8, 2012

How Gamay Taught Me to Keep on Believing

Have you ever been let down by someone?  I think we all have, at some point.  We give that individual a chance, and another chance, and another chance - countless chances, and nothing improves, year in and year out.  We then move on to someone else - and we’re let down again and again.  And we move on to someone else, and again we’re let down.

I’ve had this happen.  We all have.  We think, “What went wrong?  Is it me?  Are my expectations too high?  Or are they really all the same - equally as disappointing as the next?”

It’s generally at that time, we vow never to return to anyone like that.  Anyone with traits similar to those individuals raises a red flag in our minds.  We turn away from it and avoid it like the plague.  And we move in the direction of someone or something completely different and begin to embrace it.  We won’t return to anyone like those earlier examples, will we?

I’ve said it before - wines can be very much like people sometimes.  The wines have their own identities, tendencies, potential, etc.  What I’ve described above accurately reflects some of my experiences with some people.  It also accurately describes my history with some wines.

So which grape is it that let me down so many times that I began to avoid it like the plague?  Gamay.  I tasted so many poor quality Gamay based wines, particularly from Beaujolais, and after giving it what I felt were enough chances, I stopped trying Gamay wines.  I was tired of the watery, off-balance, and borderline disgusting wines I had tasted.  I felt other things deserved my attention - wines that were more satisfying and consistent.

The difference here is that this past year, I was forced to give Gamay another chance.  The book I represent consists mostly of French wines, and some are Beaujolais.  So when I had to taste through them, I didn’t know what to expect, since the wines in the book I represent have been exciting, good quality, and worthwhile.

The wines that I represent from Beaujolais are from Maison Kuhnel.  Upon tasting the Villages wine - “Tera Rosa” - I was already surprised by the good quality.  When I tasted the Cru - Moulin-a-Vent (probably best known Beaujolais Cru) “Reine de Nuit,” I was impressed.  But the Kuhnel wine that was most exciting to me was the other Cru - Chenas (smallest Cru In Beaujolais) “Cuvee P’Tit Co.”  I loved this wine.  These wines didn’t taste anything at all like the examples of Beaujolais wines I had tasted (and disliked) over the years.  They were lovely, satisfying, even complex (particularly the two Cru wines).  Their fruit, floral, and earth characteristics began to make a believer out of me, especially after tasting the Chenas.  I thought to myself, “Is it just the Kuhnel wines that are so delicious?  Or are there other Beaujolais wines that I need to try?”

The answer was the latter.

I tasted the Domaine la Prebende Beaujolais - relatively inexpensive but the packaging and curiosity/quest to find good quality Beaujolais drew me in.  And I enjoyed it!  It’s brighter and leaner than the Kuhnel wines.  The red fruit and mineral shine through and the wine is almost a perfectly clear red, it’s so light and food-friendly with its clean acidity, and I was pleased.

And then I was out to dinner with someone.  We decided on our dinners, and he suggested a Beaujolais.  I didn’t want to appear narrow minded so I agreed to the Domaine Les Cotes de la Roche Moulin-a-Vent.  And that was great!  Red fruit, floral notes, and earthiness made for a lovely and delicious Cru Beaujolais.  The structure of the wine was so impressive that for a moment, I forgot I was this enthusiastic over a Beaujolais.

The word “Gamay” and the word “Beaujolais” still tend to raise a little red flag in my mind, but after tasting those wines over the past year, I’m a lot less suspicious of Gamay and tend to give it a try at least.  I usually prefer to stick with Cru or Villages.  Apparently the Beaujolais I had been tasting before this past year were not the same quality and were not good examples of what a Beaujolais could and should be.  It was just a matter of being open and willing enough to hunt down good quality Beaujolais.  The problem was, I didn’t know just how good the quality of a Beaujolais could be, and so I didn’t know there were so many worth looking for and trying.  I’m not saying Gamay will ever be one of my favorites, but at least there are some examples that I can enjoy very much and recommend to others.  And it feels good to be enthusiastic about the Beaujolais in the book that I represent - it makes it easy and fun to show them to customers and potential customers.

There have been so many times when a person, no matter who they were, disappointed me.  And there were lots of times when I was convinced that lots of people are the same  as the next one.  I’d tell my mom, “I’m not even going to bother this time, because they’re all the same.”  (And my mom still raises an eyebrow when I mention Gamay, after the number of times it let me down.)  Well, wine teaches me something new every day.  But on the days when I tasted those Beaujolais and they proved that no two wines are the same and to keep on believing that there are some, if not many, that truly are worthwhile, I decided perhaps that same thought can be applied to things other than wine, including people.  Generalizations can be dangerous, and instead of forming a generalization to keep us safe from disappointment, it can actually keep us from something good, exciting, and fun.  The “something good, exciting, and fun” may be the diamond in the rough, but it’s certainly worth the risk.


  1. None of us can really say never because life will always be throwing us curveballs. While Gamay was quite popular around 1980s, it could be because the soil wasn’t as rich as it was then, but still, if you are an expert in making wines, then you can make great wine, though I don’t know if you’ll be able to resist holding off on it -- as we all know, wine tastes better with age.

  2. I was born in early to mid 1980s so I didn’t taste any of the Gamay produced then. It’s like anything else, if it’s made properly, it’ll generally be good quality, I just got unlucky for a while and was fortunate enough to find some good Gamay this year.

    Thanks for reading!