While gamay is now made all over the world, France remains both its homeland and the place where it’s being embraced anew. And not just in Beaujolais, but the many places throughout eastern and central France where it grew with abandon over a century ago. We’re unlikely to see a revival to the extent of the 19th century, but then again we also don’t drink wine for breakfast anymore. (Much.) Although if we did, gamay would not be a bad choice.
It’s worth considering not only gamay purists in this expansion, but those who find its value as part of a blend. Pure gamay will always have its strongest home in the Beaujolais, and it would be hard to argue any of these regions intend to better Beaujolais at its own game. But they do offer a more diverse perspective.
In addition to the producers below, many other excellent examples can be found, including: Jean Maupertuis (Auvergne), Guillot-Broux (Mâconnais), La Combe Aux Rêves (Bugey), Domaine Robert Sérol (Roannaise), Domaine Nicolas Faure (Burgundy), Dominique Lucas/Les Vignes de Paradis (Savoie), Domaine de Montrieux (Vendômois), Les Maisons Brûlées (Touraine), Clos de Tue-Boeuf (Touraine), Les Vins Contés (Touraine), Clusel-Roch’s Traboules (Côteaux du Lyonnais), Baptiste Cousin (Anjou), La Grapperie (Loire) and La Ferme des Sept Lunes (Rhône).
Julien Guillot / Clos des Vignes du Maynes | Mâconnais
Guillot’s property in Cruzille, in the northern Mȃconnais, goes to the very roots of the natural wine movement, which his grandfather helped to pioneer in the 1950s. Guillot brings a unique perspective to gamay—not quite Burgundy, not yet Beaujolais—not only in his Mâcon Rouge and Mâcon-Cruzille, but the mysterious, radiant, field-blended Cuvée 910.
Vincent Giraudon | Côte Roannaise
Giraudon seems particularly determined to make serious gamay for food, perhaps because of his family’s restaurant background. He has rooted out a number of very old Roannaise parcels staked up in the rough granite soils outside nearby towns like Villemontais. In addition to an Eponyme rosé and red, there’s also the more stately, long-macerated Quercus from an old plot in Saint-Haon.
Domaine des Pothiers | Côte Roannaise
Romain Paire and his family have been dedicated to Roannaise gamay longer than most. They make a large range of gamays, but the pinnacle is their Clos du Puy, from a walled vineyard of old gamay Saint-Romain vines (yet another local cultivar). Their Bulles also remains a standard-bearer for fizzy pink gamay.
Domaine du Perron | Bugey
François Grinand’s property in the rural Ain region, east of Lyon, is admittedly more known for Savoyard grapes like mondeuse and jacquère than gamay. But at its best, the En Messieurs from 80-year-old plantings on clay and marl has all the mushroomy earth of Burgundy and the pepper of syrah. A truly unique lens on gamay.
Domaine la Bohème | Auvergne
If Patrick Bouju’s wines can be uneven at times, perhaps due to his distaste for sulfur dioxide, the best are crave-worthy—and immensely popular. His red Lulu hails from Corent, that source of great rosé in the midcentury, while his slightly sweet, poppy seed-accented sparkling Festejar, which usually includes some pinot noir, remains a symbol of what the Auvergne does best.
Vincent & Marie Tricot | Auvergne
The Tricots, based in the Auvergnat town of Orcet, have become symbols of the region’s potential. There’s a wide range of wines, including both the Les Marcottes, an old-vine red gamay, and a robust, broad Rosé de Gamay that’s serious enough to be aged in old barrels.
Hervé Souhaut | Ardèche
Souhaut is perhaps better known for his syrah, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his La Souteronne, from a range of parcels in the hills west of the Rhône appellation of Saint-Joseph. It remains a benchmark for not-Beaujolais gamay.
Chahut & Prodiges | Touraine
Former journalist Gregory Leclerc has become an excellent source for utterly drinkable central Loire reds. His Gros Locaux includes côt and grolleau in addition to gamay, and finds that perfect, slightly burnt-herb quality characteristic of many of the wines form the area. A great example of how well gamay works in an ensemble.
Philippe Tessier | Cheverny
Tessier’s whites, especially those based on the romorantin grape, are better known. But forget not his red Cheverny. It’s a gamay-dominant blend that does an excellent job of showing off the grape’s savory side.