Take the 401 in either direction to Prince Edward County or Niagara, and you’ll find vineyards planted with Gamay, the grape that is used to make Beaujolais. It’s only the fifth most popular grape in the province, but some wineries have staked their reputation on producing high quality Gamay. Malivoire and 13th Street have made fantastic bottles, and Chateau des Charmes are so committed to the grape that founder Paul Bosc Sr. created his own unique clone of Gamay called “Droit.”
Gamay makes light- to medium-bodied wines. They tend to be fruity, and taste and smell like black pepper. To dumb it down these wines are the ugly cousin to Pinot Noir.
I had an opportunity to taste Gamay bottles from France, Ontario, and British Columbia recently. There were good and bad bottles from both sides of the Atlantic, and here’s what you can check out at the LCBO.
2014 Cave Spring Cellars Gamay – LCBO 228569 – $15.95 – **** –
The nose is concentrated maraschino cherry. But when you take your first sip the fruit is dark cherry and raspberry. This wine sits a little heavy on the mid palate but it’s still medium bodied.
2014 Malivoire Gamay – Vintages 591313 – $17.95 – **** –
The fruit in this light-bodied red is bright and vibrant with red cherry, wild strawberry, and a layer of raspberry jam. Even though it’s a little lighter on the palate there’s a nice concentration of fruit flavours. It finishes with a hint of black pepper.
2014 Chateau Des Charmes Gamay – LCBO 57349 – $14.95 – ****+ –
The nose is inviting with red and dark cherry with a subtle earthiness. When this wine hits your mouth it is light and delicate with lots of ripe cherry flavours. This wine is dangerously smooth with nice acidity. This is a fantastic easy-drinking, medium-bodied red.
And for the non Gamay drinkers.
2013 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling – Vintages 643361 – $24.95 – ****+ –
The acidity on this wine is a perfect balance to the sweetness on the mid-palate. The sweet fruit flavours are like juicy peaches or apricots. Before you can really have the ripe, sweet fruit flavours set in it all washes away, leaving the palate refreshed. I usually like pairing Riesling with food in my house year-round, but pairing food with this wine would just get in the way.
2012 Union Forté – Vintages 361758 – $16.95 – ****1/2 –
There are a lot of people experimenting with fortified wines in Ontario, but the Union Forté sits above everyone else. This wine offers something very different from the nose until the finish. The nose is candied cherry, plum, and spice. There is a nice rich intensity to the fruit when you take your first sip. Plum, dark cherry, raisin follow through with a bit of cocoa and spice. The spice notes in this wine make me think of Christmas, because this just feels like liquid fruit cake.