There are few grapes with such a strong affinity to a specific region as Gamay is to Beaujolais. This red variety has not been so successful beyond Beaujolais, but it is still the most planted red grape variety in Savoie and is also widespread in Loire. The vine was first introduced to Côte D’or in the late 14th century and it is the offspring of Pinot and Gouais Blanc. The grape is thought to have originated in the village of Gamay, south of Beaune.
Gamay buds, flowers and ripens early in the year, putting it in danger of spring frosts. It is, however, well-suited to the cooler climate of the Loire Valley. Its wines tend to be high in acidity and provide an aroma of red fruits. Planting the vines in acidic soils can help reduce the acidity of the wine.
This French red grape mutation of Gamay de Bouze, which is itself a mutation of Gamay, has similar properties to the latter, but its juice is of a deeper colour. It was traditionally used largely as a teinturier, or dye, adding rich reds to otherwise blandly coloured wines. It was discovered in the vineyard of Chaudenay, Saône-et-Loire, in 1832. In 2007, only 183 hectares of Gamay Chaudenay were registered as having been harvested. Gamay Chaudenay is late maturing and highly productive.