13 September 2008

Gamay grapes

I've decided that the grapes I found are Gamay Noir. I looked up grape varieties in Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wines, which includes pictures of the primary varieties, or cépages. That wasn't conclusive, because Johnson's illustration of Gamay shows a slightly plum-shaped grape. The grapes I found were more nearly spherical in shape.

Gamay grapes, I believe

Then I looked on a French web site, here. It says that the Gamay grapes are "medium-sized, elliptical, and short." That might apply. It says they are of a deep violet color, almost black. Yes. It also says that the bunches are "small to medium-sized, cylindrical, compact." They don't have "wings" like the bunches of other grape varieties have. That fits.

By the way, grappe in French means "bunch" when describing grapes or, for example, "cluster" tomatoes (tomates en grappe). "Grapes" are le raisin and a grape is a grainun grain de raisin. The term raisin is used both as a collective (non-count) noun or as a count noun in the plural (des or les raisins). It's pretty confusing for us English-speakers. You would say le raisin est bon cette année, in the singular, to mean "the grapes are nice this year." Or nous allons manger du raisin, singular, to say "we are going to eat (some) grapes." But what we call "raisins" in English are raisins secs, plural, in French.

Gamay, another view

It would make sense that these are Gamay grapes because that's the main variety grown here in the Touraine appellation. The other two most common Touraine wine grapes are Côt (a.k.a. Malbec) and Cabernet Franc. The web site I mentioned shows Côt grapes as a paler blue in color, and says the bunches are loose rather than tight and compact. That isn't what my found bunches are like. And it shows the Cab. Franc grapes as being much bluer also.

Sterilizing jars for jelly

According to the Robert dictionary, the Gamay grape originally came from Burgundy and is named for a village there. However, I can't find any village called Gamay in the Michelin road atlas of France or on Google's maps.

Gamay is best known as the main grape variety grown and vinified in the Beaujolais region, which is at the southern end of Burgundy. Fine Burgundy wines, from a little farther north, are made with Pinot Noir grapes, and I think Burgundian vintners in general look down their nose at Gamay, considering the wines made from it inferior to Pinot Noirs.

Filling the jars: ladle some jelly into a measuring cup
and then pour it into the hot jars. It's easier and neater
than using a funnel and filling the jars by the ladleful.
I now know this, from personal experience...

I don't know what Burgundians would think of Gamay jelly. Actually, my Gamay jelly doesn't seem to have jelled as well as my apple jelly did. Maybe I should have added some apple peels and cores to the grapes for the pectin they would produce. Or I could have bought some pectin at the supermarket, I suppose.

At any rate, the Gamay "jelly" is more like a very thick syrup. It will be good on toast, no doubt, and it will be a good addition to wine sauces (I'm thinking about coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, or lapin au vin rouge, for example) for its thickening properties and slight sweetness.

This picture reveals more about the color of the grapes.
One recipe for grape jelly said it is a good idea to include
some grapes that are not completely ripe, for their pectin.

I think my next project might be to buy a big bag of roasted peanuts, in the shell, to make some peanut butter. PB&J sandwiches might be in our future. We usually had them made with grape jelly when I was a kid.


  1. I have a bunch of those growing in my garden. When I popped over here and saw the pics, I thought maybe you were going to attempt making some sort of liqueur, which is what I want to do with mine. Have you found any good recipes for a liqueur or aperitif wine?

  2. I don't have any specific recipes for a grape liqueur or apéritif wine, but Walt did make an apéritif using vodka and coings and sugar. It's good. Here's his blog post about it.

  3. Your grape jelly looks similar to the 'confit de pinot noir' we've bought last weekend during our annual automn trip to the French Alsace region. We don't have the courage to make these jellies ourselves, nor a vineyard in our backgarden supplying us with free grapes ;-). Like you, we intend to use it to flavour and thicken stews and sauces. Yummy!

  4. Hello Martine, It's nice to see you here again. Thanks for the nice postcard from Alsace. This fall I am going to have to attempt to make that Baeckeoffe. I'll post pictures and the recipe when I do.

  5. When I was doing some research on pectin and low sugar jams I came across an article that suggested adding some strawberries that still had green tips to the jam to help it gel. This article seemed to indicate that unripe fruit had a higher level of natural pectin than ripe fruit. The author said that her jam as as sweet and flavorful as previous batches, but gelled much better with a bit of green fruit.


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