As part of Toronto’s Terroir Symposium I was asked to lead a tasting of Ontario Gamay. It was titled by the hashtag that Canadian Dr Janet Dorozynski came up with a few years back: #gogamaygo.
This is a variety that’s doing pretty well in Ontario. Ten years ago there were 25 different Gamays from here; now there are 65. 17 producers used to make it; now there are 40 who make a Gamay, and the volume has risen from 177 000 litres to 330 000 over the decade, which is almost half a million bottles. There are approximately 550 acres planted to Gamay.
We tasted the wines blind, and these are my notes and scores as written: please excuse their quality, as I was scribbling them down while I was moderating the seminar, which takes up a fair bit of brain space. In all, we had 12 Ontario Gamays and two ringers from Beaujolais.
Conclusions? There aren’t any 95 point Gamays out there. But do we need 95 point Gamays? These are seriously delicious, smashable wines, and the best have more than enough complexity and seriousness to keep me interested. And, remember, these aren’t expensive wines.
Gamay can crop generously: in Niagara, you have to drop some crop or you’ll never get all the grapes ripe, but – still – the crops are pretty good. So it’s possible to buy very good Gamay in the CA$16-25 range, which makes it a very good deal.
I’d like to see more people work with whole bunch (treating the fermentations very gently) because I think this could bring extra dimensions here. And experiments with concrete, large-format oak and minimal sulfites might be quite interesting.
We all remarked about how much diversity there was in these wines. They all tasted different (even though my scores are in quite a tight band). It’s definitely a strong category for Ontario. #gogamaygo
Tawse Redfoot Vineyard Gamay Noir 2017 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
13% alcohol. From clay soils, hand picked. Bright, fresh, supple cherry and plum fruit with some raspberry and cherry notes. Fine-grained and pure with nice savoury bite. 92/100
Fielding Gamay 2017 Niagara Peninsula, Canada
12.3% alcohol, hand picked. Ripe and sweetly fruited with some herbal notes on the nose. Sappy and green with nice balance and focus, and some juiciness. 90/100
Cave Spring Gamay 2017 Niagara Escarpment, Canada
12% alcohol. Limestone-rich clay. Concentrated with nice juicy cherry and berry fruits, with a fine spiciness and some grippy structure. Hint of sweetness to the fruit. 90/100
Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2018 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
12% alcohol. 58% fermented in concrete, the rest in steel and large oak. 10% whole cluster in steel. Some earthy, spicy notes here, with supple cherry and plum fruit, and some silky raspberry detail. Nice freshness, finishing spicy. 92/100
Charly Thévenet Regnié ‘Grain & Granit’ 2017 Beaujolais, France
3 hectare vineyard, 80 year old vines, biodynamically farmed, 13% alcohol. Sweetly fruited and quite rich with a sense of harmony to it. Good structure with nice herbal hints. Shows lushness and richness. 93/100
13th Street Winery Whitty Vineyard Gamay 2017 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Destemmed, crushed and fermented in open top with punching down. Minimal sulfites. Some reduction here? Slightly rubbery edge to the sweet, dense cherry and raspberry fruit. Nicely weighted. Has herbs, some spice and a grippy finish. 91/100
Rosewood Estates Night Moves Gamay Noir 2017 Creek Shores, Niagara, Canada
13.5% alcohol. Whole berry ferment, wild yeast, 32 days on skins. Free run juice only to barrel for 11 months. Good weight here with nice structure under the sweet, more-ish cherry and plum fruit. Quite seductive with some richness. Has a sleek mid-palate and a bold finish. 92/100
Peller Estates Reserve Gamay Noir 2017 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Fine and expressive with nice fruit. Has sleek red cherry and plum character with a sour cherry finish and nice elegance. 92/100
Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2017 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.8% alcohol. A little bit of coffee on the nose. Supple and direct with some freshness and a bit of spice. Sleek berry and cherry fruit and good weight. 89/100
Malivoire Gamay Le Coeur 2018 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
12% alcohol. Whole cluster ferment, six days of carbonic maceration followed by gentle foot treading and pouring over. Then to hogsheads (8 years old). Has a sappy green edge to the rich fruit. Lively with raspberry and cherry notes. Sappy and detailed with nice freshness. Lovely vibrant style. 93/100
Southbrook Laundry Vineyard Gamay 2017 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada
12.9% alcohol. 60% whole cluster, wild ferment. Very fresh with lovely direct cherry and raspberry fruit. This is so expressive with good acidity and a nice vibrant personality, as well as a savoury edge. 92/100
Stratus Gamay 2015 Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
13.4% alcohol. Rich and sweetly fruited with nice density. Has some herbal hints. The fruit shows some liqueur-like richness. Has an autumnal feel to it. 90/100
Dominique Piron Domaine de la Chanaise Morgon 2016 Beaujolais, France
13% alcohol. Partially destemmed after hand harvesting and sorting. Fermented in cement tanks. Ripe and fresh with nice structure, and some depth to the focused fruit. Bright and well balanced with raspberry and cherry fruit. 92/100
Château des Charmes Gamay Noir Droit 2017 St David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
13.7% alcohol. Stainless steel ferment. A unique clone discovered in their vineyard. No oak. Structured and dense with lovely direct berry fruits. Has a floral cherry character, too. Nicely weighted with a grippy finish. Substantial but balanced. 93/100