Thankfully Jean Foillard doesn’t live in Burgundy. I say that because if he transported his vineyard holdings, metier and extraordinary talent to the Côte de Nuits then there is no chance that you would be reading about him in these pages. His wine would be as exclusive and expensive as Domaine Leroy or Georges Roumier. It is only because Beaujolais has been much maligned by the ‘nouveau’ phenomenon, poor quality marketing and oceans of basic quality wines that the regions superstars remain undiscovered. Jean Foillard is one of the great winemakers in France and, in his hands, wine is no ordinary thing.
Jean and his wife Agnès live just outside the small village of Ville-Morgon in a large, old white farmhouse that they have renovated beautifully. Jean started making wine in 1982; first at the family domaine then after a few years he branched out on his own and started to rent and buy his own holdings (including a large, perfect parcel on the Côte du Py: the most celebrated climat in all of Beaujolais). Today his holdings are 11 hectares, including a parcel recently inherited from Agnes’ parents in the lieu-dit Courcellette. It’s granitic soils are a little different to the iron rich, schist of the Côte du Py and the cuvée is bottled separately.
Jean Foillard is a fervent supporter, like Marcel Lapierre, of the natural wine growing and making methods of the legendary Jules Chauvet. This includes keeping whole clusters of grapes in vats for 2 to 3 weeks at a low temperature before fermentation, using only natural yeast, no pumping, no fining and no filtration. Furthermore he ages his wine in barrels brought from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti..... the results are sublime. He is a cult wine hero amongst the very many young, free-spirited vignerons in France who are now looking back to nature to make fine wine.
Morgon from Foillard shows wonderfully fresh, pure aromas of cherries and blackberries combined with a haunting, otherworldly complexity that is distinctly Foillard. The word diaphanous is perfect to describe the aromas of his wines; you can almost smell through them. In the mouth, again there’s a wonderful transparency. Crunchy, fresh fruit is complemented by a satiny, silky structure and some delicate spice. Elegant, soft, smooth and pure, in many ways these wines have more in common sensually with Chambolle-Musigny than regular, ‘run of the mill’ Beaujolais. A must try wine for wine lovers who have not yet discovered this treasure of ‘true’ Beaujolais.