The Foillard name carries as much weight as any producer in Beaujolais, and for good reason. When the wines are on form, as they most often are, they represent some of the most complete bottles of the category. These exemplify exactly why we adore top Beaujolais so much in the first place. Jean Foillard’s bottles are not inexpensive in the context of Beaujolais, but they are immensely affordable in the context of top Burgundy, which is frankly how we should all be looking at them. They are a joy to drink in their youth in all their energy and freshness and are endlessly versatile at the table at all stages of their life. We wouldn’t trade in Gamay’s innate youthful exuberance for anything, though in the case of serious producers like Foillard, it almost does a disservice as to how well the wines can develop with age. Older bottles we have are dead ringers for first-rate Gevrey-Chambertin. Foillard’s longtime importer, Kermit Lynch, captures the spirit of these wines with his usual simple eloquence: “deliciousness with class.” We’d like to think that descriptor applies to every great wine we carry at the shop, but it’s particularly appropriate with Foillard’s bottles.
On the surface, everything that happens chez Foillard appears to be just about as expected from producers of the natural set: an aversion to chemical spraying in the vines, native yeast ferments, no chapitalization or filtration and low to no sulfur usage throughout the process. There are plenty of exciting wines made with these methods, but Foillard’s wines have attained an almost mythical status in the region because they reach far beyond their natural classification.
What makes them so special? To start, Foillard is working with mostly old, and often extremely old vines that he farms meticulously in Morgon and Fleurie. Harvesting is done only when the grapes have reached optimal ripeness, not when it seems convenient from a weather perspective, which can be a risky endeavor in a region where the rewards for such disciplined patience are not as bountiful. Bunches are rigorously sorted before they are brought into the cellar. Once there, each of his cuvées is vinified in exactly the same way, where the customary whole cluster fermentation is carried out for about a month in cold conditions that are optimal for achieving the kind of clarity and precision he is seeking. The wines are aged in older Burgundy barrels and bottled with minimal sulfur. The result is always an unyieldingly pure expression of the vintage and his special terroirs, reaching towards the pinnacle of Gamay’s potential, year after year.
Lurid ruby. An expansive, mineral-accented bouquet displays powerful red and dark berry, incense and potpourri qualities, and a Moroccan spice nuance adds urgency and lift. Bright, seamless and alluringly sweet, offering palate-staining black raspberry, blueberry, violet pastille and spicecake flavors that slowly firm up with aeration. Shows superb depth and clarity, with nary a rough edge to be found. Closes supple, sweet and insanely long, leaving a sexy floral note behind.
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