Switzerland’s Native Gamaret Grape

  • By Jacky Blisson MW
  • 13 Nov 2020
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 201
Made possible by
Geneve Mandement - Credit : Swiss Wine Promotion

Gamaret is a red grape variety grown almost exclusively in Switzerland. Prized by Swiss wine lovers, it boasts a spicy, dark fruit fragrance, bright acidity, medium to full body, and firm tannic structure. Gamaret is also favoured by growers as it ripens early, produces high yields, and is resistant to rot. 

The Origins of Gamaret

The grape is a cross of two Vitis vinifera cultivars, Gamay and Reichensteiner. It was bred in the Agroscope Research Centre in Pully, Switzerland in 1970. The objective was to create a grape variety with similarly fruity characteristics as Gamay, and greater resistance to fungal infections like botrytis. The secondary goal was to obtain a more deeply coloured, fuller bodied wine style.

While the cross largely achieved its desired results, the variety has proven to be susceptible to grapevine diseases like flavescence dorée and esca. Despite this, Gamaret plantings have seen steady, albeit modest, growth across western Swiss vineyards over the past fifty years. 

Gamaret Plantings Today

There are currently just over 400 hectares (990 acres) of Gamaret planted in Switzerland, notably in the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, and Valais. Gamaret’s stature pales in comparison to Swiss viticultural heavy hitters Pinot Noir and Chasselas, however, as an indigenous variety, it is considered an important asset, offering a unique Swiss expression. 

Gamaret is frequently blended with Pinot Noir and Garanoir, yielding a medium-bodied, moderately tannic red with vibrant dark fruit flavours. It is also increasingly bottled as a single variety wine. The bold palate profile and firm tannins of Gamaret make it suitable for oak ageing. Indeed, most Swiss producers age Gamaret wines for at least 8 to 12 months in French oak barrels.

Geneva

This hilly vineyard area extends around the western side of Lake Geneva. Protected from cool, wet weather by the Jura mountains and the pre-Alps, Geneva boasts a mild microclimate, with vines planted on well exposed slopes. This is Switzerland’s third wine region in terms of overall production. Gamaret accounts for 8.5% of the vineyard area, with 119 hectares (295 acres) planted to date. 

Geneva Gamaret/Gamaret Blends to Try

La Cave de Genève “Coeur de Clémence” Gamaret, Domaine du Clos des Pins “Mandragore” Gamaret, Domaine de la Vigne Blanche “L’esprit de Genève”, Domaine du Crest “Coteau du Cornière” Assemblage Rouge 

Vaud

This is the historic heartland of Swiss wine. The vineyard area forms an arch along the northern shore of Lake Geneva, rising up to high peaks where steep, terraced vineyards protected by UNESCO world heritage status lie. Today, Vaud is the second largest vineyard area, responsible for a quarter of Swiss wine production. Vaud has the country’s highest Gamaret plantings, at 151 hectares (370 acres), approximately 4% of the vineyard acreage in Vaud. 

Vaud Gamaret/Gamaret Blends to Try

Les Frères Dubois et Fils “Lune Noire”, Château de Praz “Réserve Rouge” Gamaret

Valais

The vineyards of the Valais, Switzerland’s largest vineyard area, stretch for over 100 kilometres along the Rhône river. This sunny, dry Alpine climate produces a wide range of red and white grape varieties. Just over 100 hectares (250 acres) of Gamaret are planted here, accounting for 2.25% of overall Valais plantings. Gamaret blends from the Valais region tend to be full-bodied and dense, with intense dark fruit flavours.

Valais Gamaret/Gamaret Blends to Try

Jean-René Germanier “Gally” Rouge, St. Jodern Kellerei “Mischabel”, Domaines Chevaliers Lux Vina Assemblage Rouge “W”

Other Gamaret Outposts

In 1999, Gamaret was granted DOC status in the Valle d’Aosta region of northwest Italy. Total plantings are estimated at less than 30 hectares (75 acres). Local critics define Valle d’Aoste Gamaret as generally medium in body, with blueberry, black pepper flavours, and elegant tannins.

The Beaujolais region permitted Gamaret plantings in 2008, with the view to authorizing up to 10% in the region’s appellation wines. The idea being that a small addition of Gamaret would bolster the structure and phenolic weight of Gamay, without subverting its vibrant, fruity personality. To date, Gamaret has yet to achieve this AOC status. A handful of estates produce Gamaret wines or blends labelled as Vin de France. 

Domaine du Nival of Québec, Canada has 3,000 Gamaret vines planted and produces a 100% Gamaret cuvée called “Un de ces Quatre”. The estate deems it “a rising star of their vineyard” praising its vibrant fruit, spicy notes, and well-structured tannins. 

Geneve Mandement - Credit : Swiss Wine Promotion