Monday, January 9, 2012

Jean Foillard Beaujolais, Morgon "Cote du Py"

Beaujolais; you may think you know gamay noir, but until you've tried the masterpieces of Jean Foillard, you really don't know what the varietal is capable of. Greatness.
Jean Foillard (courtesy of

   Jean Foillard bought his vineyard in the appellation Morgon in the Cote du Py of Beaojolais in the early 1980s... the vineyard was in complete disarray and needed years of dedicated work before winemaking could even enter Jean's mind. Now visitors (like the fastidious Bertrand @ can stay in one of several private rooms in the chateau and enjoy the tasting room downstairs without fear of how to get back to the hotel after a bit too much joie-du-vie!

   Early in Jean's career, he was introduced to Jules Chavet and became an un-official member of "La Bande à Marcel" (,fr,4,BJCP07.cfm). Chavet's mantra or philosophy was (a radical view for the time) that winemaking should be a natural process; he felt that great winemaking started in the vineyard with vigerous canopy management, absolutely no use of chemicals on the vines, low or no use of sulphur, etc etc. To Jean this all made sense and what's more; it makes sense in the glass.

   If the appellation of Morgon in the Cote du Py region  is known for one thing, it would have to be the soil. Crumbling granite and ancient schist are trademarks of the regions soil, even sandstone makes an appearance to enhance vines with a perfumed edge. The Gamay Noir for which the region is most famous is made what it is because of the soil it grows on (much like all great wines)... but this wine is dulled with the use of chemicals, it is masked with "designer yeasts" and it is ultimately foiled by filtration. To people like Jules Chavet and Jean Foillard it was simple logic: they as winemakers needed to do everything they could to allow maximum expression of Morgon in the bottle (or glass).

   And so Jean does the work necessary in the vineyard to allow the fullest expression of the varietal and the terroir of his wines. This even extends to working with the barriques or foudres (3000L cask) himself; not that far out of his comfort zone as his father was a well-known cooper in the region. Every part of the winemaking process is integral to creating a final piece worthy of his efforts, much like every part of a puzzle is necessary to create a complete picture.

2009 Morgon "Cote du Py" by Jean Foillard
$40 CAD    ***** BUY THIS IF YOU CAN *****

varietal:      100% Gamay Noir
age of vines: up to 100 years old!
cultivation:   manual, completely organic and partially bio-dynamic (not-certified)
vinification:  traditional carbonic maceration
aging:    12 months in neutral foudres (some up to 40 years old)
awards:   93 points, Stephen Tanzer
  • visual:   clear; medium ruby core with light cherry rim and no bricking; faint sediment
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and youthful bouquet of red cherries, young raspberries, light red currant, ripe strawberries, rose blossoms in Spring, red candies, fresh blueberries, light spice afternotes
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate (well integrated red currant and cranberry) acids, moderate-to light (soft, silky) tannins, light body, light alcohol (13.5%), moderate+ intense and youthful flavors that mimick well the nose; heavy emphasis on candied red berry notes typical for a Beaujolais but with a distinct minerally-earthy backbone. Excellent balance and structure, long length
  • conclusion:   whilst this wine is drinking well now, because of the careful viticulture and age of vines this will age well for another decade. Drink 2011-2020; aging will develop earthy notes and the bright candied berries will soften
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   with the wine so young; the vibrant acidity and the bright red berries, duck is a natural! Consider bergamot smoked duck breast on celeriac and green apple rosti with steamed gai-lan (or swiss chard) with confit of sweet onion

   Jean Foillard once explained how the huge foudres he uses are brought into his ancient and modest winecellar: they are taken apart and re-assembled in the cellar plank by plank. It is a meticulous job he stipulated, stressing the importance of every piece being brought back into alignment. It was also worthy of note that the work needed to be finished within 24 hours or the pieces would have shifted slightly, almost imperceptibly, and would never re-assemble properly.

   It struck me as I read those words (thank you again Bertrand) that this was the same manner that Jean (and Jules Chavet and Marcel LaPierre and others) approached their work with the vineyard: everything has it's own place. It isn't the winemaker's job to impose his or her own sense of order to the vineyard, it is the winemaker's job to discover the vineyard's own sense of order.

   My sense of order is, these days, imposed by a much greater force then my own.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN !!!     SLAINTE !!!     CHEERS !!!

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