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Beaujolais icon Jean Foillard is among France’s most revered vignerons—a fact that becomes readily apparent when you look at the stocklists of Paris’ cavistes.
While these knowledgeable and well-connected sommeliers pride themselves on offering the latest discoveries, nearly all of them are just as fervent about Foillard’s work over the past four decades.
What the cavistes and their customers know is that there may be no more consistently fine red wines in all of France than Foillard’s Morgons and Fleurie. Every year, Jean’s masterful touch captures his site’s magical terroirs and the unique character of the vintage with astonishing depth and purity.
In charge of his family’s domaine since 1980, Foillard is a charter member of the quartet of Morgon growers mentored by the great Jules Chauvet, father of the French natural wine movement. Jean’s méthode ancienne means tending his vines organically, a 3-4 week traditional whole-cluster vinification, aging in neutral oak barrels, and doesn’t chaptalize, sulfur or filter his wines.
Even though there are now several growers in the Beaujolais cru villages making wines along similar lines, Foillard’s continue to stand apart. Clearly the strength and delicacy, fine structure, texture and terroir transparency that make his wines so sought after come from something within Foillard himself.
And that something is being applied to an expanding number of fine cuvées. Foillard’s flagship wine has long been his venerated Morgon “Côte du Py,” from a renowned slope of roches pourries—“rotten rock” of decomposed granite and schist. Through Jean’s great skill and instinct, this extraordinary site yields an exceptionally complete expression of Beaujolais.
In its perfect balance of sheer deliciousness and serious, structured complexity, Foillard’s Côte du Py is a model of grape variety matched to terroir. Few wines from anywhere combine these traits so effortlessly, and it was his Côte du Py that established Foillard’s loyal following.
About a dozen years ago, Foillard began augmenting his production of Côte du Py and with two new Morgon cuvées: Cuvée Corcelette from 80-year-old vines in the lieu-dit of the same name, and Cuvée 3.14, a super-Morgon from Foillard’s oldest Côte du Py vines, planted a century ago.
Corcelette stands apart for its floral raciness—courtesy of its sandstone soil—contrasting beautifully with Côte du Py’s meaty depth and richness. Microscopic in production, Cuvée 3.14 elevates Gamay to its pinnacle; it is simply the ultimate in depth, elegance and nuance. Through ancient vines in one of the region’s greatest terroirs—and the winemaking of arguably its greatest producer—Cuvée 3.14 encapsulates all that Beaujolais can be
But Foillard’s brilliance is no longer limited to his home village. A decade ago a ripple of excitement rippled through the French wine trade when they learned that Jean had expanded his holdings into Fleurie.
It wasn't just that Foillard had broadened his reach into another village. It was that he had done so with very old vines in two sites revered by insiders as Fleurie’s finest: Grille-Midi and La Madone.
Foillard's first harvest from these vines was 2005, and he quickly demonstrated that his brilliance was not limited to the great terroirs of Morgon. His magic touch creates a seamless marriage of the intense minerality and firm structure of Grille-Midi and La Madone with the nuance, depth and texture that are his alone.
But the reverence in which Foillard is held naturally creates scarcity. His total annual production (factoring in all of his wines) is just 2500 cases. And with virtually every wine shop and restaurant in France clamoring for their allocation, there is rarely enough to go around.
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