What is Gamay?

The third Thursday in November is Beaujolais Nouveau day, when the young wine from the recent vintage is released, just a matter of weeks old. Every wine producing its 'nouveau', or young wine, but Beaujolais is the one that decided to turn it into a marketing device. For the most part it was very successful, and after some years out of favour it is coming back into fashion.

What the Nouveau campaign obscures, though, is that there are plenty of finer wines, ones that spend longer in the winery. When shopping, look for 'Beaujolais-Villages' on the label for reliable quality, and in particular for a wine from one of the ten Beaujolais Crus (including such names as Fleurie).

The key to Beaujolais is the way the Gamay grape is fermented, in a closed container without oxygen to emphasise the juicy cherry fruit. It often also gives a distinct aroma of raspberry bubble-gum. For a good example of how Gamay in Beaujolais can be more complex, try the Moulin-á-Vent from Burgundy producer Louis Jadot.

Main characteristics

Colour: red; very pale, with bluish tints

Body: light to medium bodied

Tastes: juicily fruity

Spotter's guide: France: Beaujolais, Ardèche, Loire. Small amounts in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland

Keep or drink? Drink

Price range: £4.99-£11.99

Try it with

Sizzled sausage pasta
Sizzling spare ribs with BBQ sauce
Griddled aubergines with yogurt & mint