In November, Sonal Holland was exploring wine bars in London. “I saw Beaujolais was quite the cool drink to have. They offer excellent value for money, they were superb to taste and they were so enjoyable,” says the Mumbai-based sommelier and master of wine—the most distinguished qualification in the industry.
Beaujolais is a region in France known for the grape varietal Gamay. The other area is Loire Valley, where, apart from reds, Gamay goes into rosés. It’s a grape that produces a wonderful fruit-forward, low-tannin and light- to medium-bodied red perfect for easy drinking. When I was working on a story about summer wines, sommelier Gargi Kothari recommended Gamay. She used the word “friendly” to describe it and told me it chills well.
It is tricky to chill red wines, especially those with high tannins, because they start tasting metallic. But Gamay, low on tannins, will survive that extra hour in the fridge without losing any flavour. This indicates it would work well for the Indian weather, palate, and perhaps even complement spicy food.
But the wine remains relatively unknown in India—and one wonders why.
Walk into a good wine shop and ask for a superior bottle of red, chances are a Pinot Noir would be the first recommendation. It shares similarities with Gamay but is more popular and expensive in comparison. Trivia: The grape varietal Gamay and Pinot are related. The latter, of course, enjoys superstar status.
Kothari believes one of the reasons Gamay is relatively unknown is the optics. A bottle of Pinot Noir would be labelled as Pinot, whereas one containing Gamay wouldn’t mention the grape varietal, especially if it’s imported from France. The country’s laws mandate only the region can be mentioned on the label. So, a Gamay from Beaujolais is simply known as Beaujolais. Holland adds that for some reason, Gamay is not grown as widely as a Pinot, Merlot or Shiraz. For one, perhaps, it’s only as recently as the 1980s that producers even sought to create superior quality Gamay wines. In India, its availability is restricted to a handful of good wine shops or five-star hotels in cities like Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai.
Kothari tasted her first Gamay about 14 years ago, at a five-star hotel in Mumbai. It was labelled Moulin-à-Vent, indicating the name of the village, or cru (wine area), where the grape was grown in Beaujolais. Wine connoisseurs use the term Beaujolais Cru to refer to the villages that grow Gamay.
To get a bit geeky, there are 10 crus in Beaujolais, the most famous being Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent. To get geekier, here’s a titbit on the way it’s produced: It involves carbonic maceration, a process where carbon dioxide is used to wear away or macerate bunches of grapes, yielding a fruit-forward taste with notes of ripe cherry, strawberries and even bananas. The end result is flavoursome wine. “That’s why it pairs so well with robust Indian food, be it tandoor, fried or curries,” notes Holland, predicting it’s only a matter of time before the palate-pleasing Gamays become the next cool wine to bring home.
Gargi Kothari’s wine list: Maison Albert Bichot Beaujolais Villages ( ₹2,720); Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages ( ₹2,900); and Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages ( ₹2,990).
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