If you enjoy juicy, chuggable reds over intensely tannic ones, there’s a good chance that Gamay (much of which is from the Beaujolais region) is one of your favorite wine grapes. It’s become an increasingly popular grape over the last several years, and I just happen to think that it’s one of the best types of red wine to be drinking during the summer months. Many Gamays do well slightly chilled, which certainly makes them more approachable when you’re dealing with scorching hot weather and you’re looking for something more refreshing than a Merlot.
You’ll find no shortage of expensive Beaujolais on store shelves, and you may find pricey Gamay from other regions as well. But no fear. There is relatively affordable Gamay out there if you know where to look. Check out some top picks that will ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
This easy-to-drink, red fruit-forward wine is one of those bottles you can serve at just about any occasion and be sure your guests will enjoy it. Notes of strawberry, raspberry and cherry all shine, giving Domaine de Colette 2020 Vieilles Vignes Régnié an almost candy-like quality that’s more fun than fussy. You may also notice some slight minerality, which keeps things interesting on the palate. It’s quite acidic, which is why I think this is such a great summery wine. And at its relatively low price point, there’s nothing stopping you from trying this bottle.
If you’re looking for a traditional Beaujolais, Domaine du Clos du Fief 2020 Tradition Juliénas is a great option. This Cru stretches only two square miles, and winemaker Michel Tête’s creations are some of the most celebrated in the region. This wine features a pop of bubblegum on the nose along with the expected red fruits like cherry and raspberry. Upon taking a sip, you may be pleased to discover notes of strawberry, leather and a subtle minerality. I found it surprisingly complex for a wine of its price point, so it’s definitely a go-to if you’re looking for fantastic value.
Simple and super affordable, Barton & Guestier Beaujolais Les Violettes is a great bottle to pick up if you’re just getting into Gamay. This 100% Gamay number can be found for little more than $10, making it a steal if you’re looking for a solid bottle. I got aromas of black cherry and a bit of mushroom on the nose, but I was even more pleased to discover notes of banana, cherry and hard candy on the palate. It’s light and quite acidic, so pairing with fresh summertime fare could be fun. This seems like an exciting but lowkey barbecue wine to me (though I’m not picky when I have a well-dressed hot dog in hand).
You won’t always find such complex Gamay at such a low price point, but Duboeuf Cote de Brouilly Domaine du Riaz 2018 delivers. With its notes of black cherry and orange peel, this is definitely an age-worthy bottle, so if you find a 2018 vintage now, you’re on the right page. It has some earthiness and a distinct tobacco note to it, which keeps it from being too fruity, while its pronounced tartness means it still feels right for summertime. This one is more tannic than many on this list, so if you’re usually a red wine person and are trying to branch out to lighter-bodied varieties, this bottle should be on your must-try list.
Lovely, light and aromatic, it’s hard not to love Domaine de la Madone Le Perréon Beaujolais Villages 2020. At first whiff, you’ll likely pick up some floral scents along with strawberry and raspberry. It’s refreshingly acidic, though it also has a hint of earthiness to it—think black pepper and leather. It’s an all-around lovely wine despite its relatively short finish. And when you consider this wine’s low price point, it’s clear why it should be a top option for Gamay lovers on a budget.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.