There is very little that we can add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said about Jean Foillard and what he has done for Beaujolais and the natural wine world at large. So we’ll share our experiences with Fanny from our recent visit to the winery in Beaujolais. Fanny is Jean’s daughter-in-law, and she graciously met us at the Foillard winery and guided us through the latest vintages of Jean’s wines and her partner Alex’s wines.
Alex is working with his father on the Jean Foillard wines and making his own label appropriately titled Alex Foillard. Alex approaches his winemaking as his Father does, honest and straightforward. It’s hard to call Alex an up-and-coming winemaker with a last name like Foillard, but his label, which he harvested from his Brouilly vineyards for the first time in 2016, is a new-ish wine on the scene of important Beaujolais producers.
The setting alone of the winery courtyard is enough to melt any stress or knock the dust off of any previous night's adventures. You probably know this, but wine grows in pretty amazing places. Maybe that’s why it tastes so good? If we surrounded ourselves with beauty, what would we be like?
Tasting through Alex’s wines we learn that he didn’t solely learn about winemaking from his father. He studied wine in Beaune at the age of 18 after studying agriculture at Lycée Agricole in Montpellier, and traveled quite extensively working in wineries all over the world including the famed Domaine Prieuré-Roch in Burgundy before deciding to return to Villé-Morgon and work full-time with his family. Shortly later Alex had the opportunity to purchase his first two vineyard sites in Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.
Alex’s wines are fresh and vibrant and different from his father’s wines because they are from different areas of Beaujolais and grown on different soil types. He is converting his vineyard sites to organic agriculture and is a strong proponent of terroir-driven winemaking.
When we speak of a “Golden Age of Wine”, it would be hard to find a better example than Alex’s involvement in the Foillard winery. The knowledge, guidance, and palate of his father Jean matched with the young ( he’s only 30 ) enthusiasm for Beaujolais make this one of our new favorite wines, again.
I’ve glossed over Jean Foillard, not out of disrespect, but as I mentioned earlier he is the OG. There is not much we can add to that conversation, but if you’ve been living under a blue stone atop Mont Brouilly and have somehow missed who Jean Foillard is, here is a very brief primer…
He’s one of the greatest Beaujolais producers to ever live. He took over his parents winery ( there is a theme here….) in 1980 and decided to lean heavily on the discoveries of Jules Chauvet, who is considered the godfather of terroir-focused, natural winemaking. Jean resisted the trends of using commercial yeast to speed up winemaking and focused on native yeast, semi-carbonic maceration, cool temperatures, and concrete to make his iconic wines. Jean, along with 3 other local winemakers were dubbed the “Gang of Four” by Kermit Lynch, the importer and visionary for the American wine market, who still imports both Foillard wines today. These four producers deserve most of the credit for the quality revolution in Beaujolais after the “Nouveau” trend nearly destroyed their industry.
Jean’s holdings are almost solely in Morgon and mostly from one of the highest points in the appellation called the Côte du Py, except for one site in Fleurie. One of our favorite, and arguably his most famous bottling, is the 2020 Jean Foillard Morgon “Côte du Py” You absolutely must know about both Alex and Jean’s wines so check some out the next time you are in the shop or at the links below.
Brandon and Trent