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The French wines of Beaujolais are widely regarded as some of the finest table wines in the world. This is due in part to the qualities of the Gamay grape, from which they are made. Gamay produces beautifully, juicy, rounded and gulpable red wines, usually drank young and full of their natural fruit character. However, it would be a mistake to say that Gamay is limited to easy-drinking, soft wines - it’s a highly flexible and versatile grape, capable of producing aged wines of serious complexity and structure, full of expression and fascinating characteristics.
The majority of Gamay wines from France are labeled under Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais, and these are the standard table wines we’re used to seeing in French restaurants, at bistros, and at our local wine store. Usually great value for money, these are the light, slightly acidic examples of what the grape can do. Far more interesting are those Gamay wines from the 10 cru villages, just north of Beaujolais, where generations of expertise and a unique soil type made up of granitic schist result in far more unique, complicated wines. The best examples of Gamay feature intense aromatics, all black fruit and forest fare, and are worth cellaring for a few years.
There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' – the land of wines – so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.