In ‘Amplographie’ by Viala and Victor Vermorel (volume 3, 1902)
we are taught that in Gaulish times there were vines in the South East,
these were southern varieties that couldn’t ripen here further north.
It was in the third century AD under the Romans that vines were really
established in the region around Lyon. The very first written records of
our region give us this information. However the question of the arrival
of the Gamay variety in our region remains unanswered: was the
variety brought here by Roman soldiers or was it already here?
THE ORIGIN OF THE GRAPE VARIETY
This ancestor is described as being an early ripening variety with
abundant production making it a sure relative of Gamay. As it
produced more grapes than the Noirien (Pinot), grown in Burgundy,
it was progressively planted from slope to slope in the Beaujolais
and Mâconnais regions and as far as Burgundy where it was banned
in 1395 by Philippe le Hardy. This is the first time that we really see
the name ‘Gamay’ in its present form, giving it, according to some,
a Burgundian origin as it is said to have been first introduced in that
region in the village of Gamay in the Côte d’Or department. The
geographical area that Gamay covered didn’t stop growing, up to
the invasion of the phylloxera grub at the end of the 19th century.
At that time Gamay made up a tenth of the vines in France
(160 000 ha) from the South-East through the Centre and the Loire