Jean-François Mérieau "Le Bois Jaceau" 2016
There are few grape varieties more misunderstood than Gamay. Its bad reputation comes from the way people have used it more than its own faults: planted on the wrong soils in Burgundy; sold as Beaujolais Nouveau as barely fermented grape juice; branded as Napa Gamay in California in the 1970s when the grapes inside the bottle had no connection with Gamay itself. It does need careful handling - in particular, yields need to be kept down - but in the right hands Gamay produces truly outstanding wine.
I’ve tasted some fantastic Gamay recently, and not just from Beaujolais. Californians are finally making genuine and very good Gamay and there’s some high-quality Gamay coming from Côte Roannaise, a southerly Loire region which is adjacent to Beaujolais. In fact, the Loire Valley is perhaps the most exciting non-Beaujolais place for Gamay right now.
This Gamay from Jean-François Mérieau has been the stand-out of all the Gamays I’ve recently tried. It’s very much a Loire red, so don’t expect overly ripe fruits. Instead, it’s slightly green in an intense, integrated way - if you like whole-cluster fermented Pinot, this wine will appeal. There’s some earth and game, but what really makes this wine is the subtle, mouth-coating grainy structure. There are wines over $50 that don’t come close to matching its concentration and depth. Mérieau also does a very intriguing Malbec (or Côt as it’s often called in the Loire), but this wine demonstrates why Gamay thrives in an edgy climate.
Grape Variety: 100% Gamay
Region: Touraine, Loire
Ageing: Stainless steel
Food pairing: chicken; rabbit; lamb; pasta