Profile: Jean Foillard

Update 27.3.2018(2.3.2018)billn

Tasted in Villié-Morgon with Alex Foillard, 09 February 2018.

Domaine Jean Foillard
Le Clachet
69910 Villié-Morgon
Tel: +33 4 74 04 24 97

Jean Foillard is pacing up and down; he has a construction project, and unfortunately the engineer is due for discussions at the same time we had a rendezvous. Jean is apologetic but he says it’s a good chance to get to meet his son, Alex, who is now working at the domaine. Alex has, officially, been working here since February 2016 after working in Australia and also doing a stage in Japan – ‘Japan?’ I ask. He smiles, saying “Yes, usually it goes the other way, with them coming here!

Jean and Agnès Foillard took over his father’s domaine in 1980 – it was 4.5 hectares that came from his parents – with time this slowly grew to the current 18 hectares, including 2 hectares from their son Alex. The domaine has a big, 7 hectare chunk of vines in Beaujolais Villages, plus another hectare in Fleurie – but they are best known for their vines in Morgon – here lies their largest holdings in the crus.

In the 1980s when all-around was a modern vernacular of bubble-gum Beaujolais and Nouveau, Foillard started the domaine in a ‘conventional’ manner but he slowly formulated another path. In the vines he moved to organic methods and in the cuverie he chose a back-to-basics approach inspired by Jules Chauvet. Foillard (together with Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton) became one of the ‘Gang of Four,’ a name given to this group of producers by their US importer – Kermit Lynch. Jean says that the quality of the fruit is everything when it comes to winemaking. Sulfur is used very sparingly in the cuverie – if at all – “We ‘play’ with the amount of CO2 gas to help preserve the wines” says Alex. Grapes are cooled right down in a refrigerator so that it is bacterial action that takes preference to the yeast at the start of the long cool carbonic maceration and fermentation – extra CO2 being used, as required. This cooler fermentation can run longer as ‘harsher’ materials are not being extracted as they would at higher temperature. This is done exactly the same for the Beaujolais Villages as it is for their grander cuvées.

After as long as 30 days carbonic maceration, the juice and pulp is pressed into concrete tanks, after being cooled again, where the fermentations will take place. Once fermentations are practically completed the wine is transferred to foudres. Sulfur, if it is to be used at all, is added only prior to bottling.

Alex on 2017:
Another quite dry vintage like in 2015, delivering only 30% of a normal crop after 2 episodes of hail. The first hail in Fleurie, the second was Fleurie again, but also the Côte du Py. Across the domaine it was about half a harvest.

Alex on 2016:
2016 brought lots of rain at the start of the year, right up to the middle of July. But after it was a fine and warm summer. Fleurie was hit by hail again but we made more wine overall – there was a couple of plots of Fleurie with a decent harvest.

The wines…

Always that slightly lactic, stalky softness to the very red cherry-strawberry fruit aromas – they are on one hand particular, but on the other hand delicious – certain wines have a superb clarity and structure…

2015 Fleurie
The make-up of this cuvée has changed often in recent years – parcels in fermage, parcels in La Madonne and some Grille Midi from an uncle. Now it will have some domaine wines too – so long as it doesn’t hail! This wine made from bought grapes and those from the uncle.
A nice big open-armed nose – soft at the edges. Big in the mouth but very fine velvet texture – round, slow waves of finishing flavour. Particular in style but no diminishing the deliciousness.

2016 Morgon Cuvée Corcelette
Granite here and very sandy – this brings the fruit and the flowers. ‘Not too much alcohol and a nice Beaujolais line of flavour.’
Here a little reduction but it’s a big and round nose too – soft red fruit at the core. Ooh wide, much fresher – really another level of perfumed flavour here – relatively non-standard, a little softness at the edges but absolutely delicious!

2016 Morgon Eponym
This from Charmes – soil similar to the Corcelette but the roots are closer to the rock.
A little less aromatic width but there’s more depth to compensate. Ooh! Direct, fresh, silky, slowly becoming more velvet as the tannin slowly starts to rise. More intensity of finishing flavour – exuberant needs just a little more time vs the Corcelette, but not too much – yum!

2016 Morgon Côte de Py
A narrower, but deep and fresh nose – slowly adding more width in the depths. Fresh and direct again – more-so than the last wines again – airy, faint tannin, great clarity and the best definition of any the wines so-far – that soft coating is almost absent here – beautiful finishing flavour – great, fresh and direct. I’ve had full, sweet wines in some vintages with this label – but not a bit of it in 2016 – beautifully structured wine. Bravo!
2014 Morgon Cote du Py ‘pi’ (3.14)
This is from a parcel of over 100-year-old vines, not made every year, it really depends how it shows. There is no difference in the cuverie, all whole cluster, starting cold, macerate for 3-4 weeks with remontage. The last grams of sugar are fermented in tank before being racked with fine lees into barrel, 6-9 months of elevage with relatively older barrels.
A big, quite open nose, red fruit below a more cheesy higher tone. In the mouth – ooh this is a racehorse – gushingly mouth-watering, complex, melting flavour. The flavour is particular yet absolutely delicious and it’s the best finish of all these wines too. Alex thinks that the 2004 is drinking really well at the moment – 2006 too – but not yet in magnum.

And finishing with Alex’s own wines:

2016 Alex Foillard, Côte de Brouilly
Distributed in the US by Kermit Lynch, as Alex’s father’s wines – there are less than 15 k bottles from 1 ha each of the cuvées. Slightly shorter maceration – 3 weeks. Only elevage in concrete tank for this cuvee bottled in May. The following cuvee has 50% elevage in barrel and was bottled one month later. Slightly younger vines here, the Brouilly not just older vines but on more granite too.
Relatively modest colour. A fine bowl of mixed red fruit on the nose – soft at the edges like the previous wines. Big volume – really mouth filling – freshness and very fine focus and definition – really a beautiful sweetened redcurrant mid and finishing flavour.

2016 Alex Foillard, Brouilly
Soft and slightly lactic nose. More density but super texture – also mouth-filling but with more weight – a more apparent concentration but still beautifully fresh and weighted. Long and delicious in the finish.

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