Beaujolais never used to be considered the most dynamic of wine regions, rather it was seen as inherently associated with traditionalism. As with some many other regions, a new generation of winemakers has breathed new life into the wines that we now see emerging. Jean Foillard has developed something approaching cult-status for his various Morgon cuvées; he is a devotee of low-intervention winemaking and has been championed in ‘natural wine’ circles. For those not in the know, natural wines are made without using sulphur dioxide, which is commonly used in winemaking on account of its anti-bacterial and anti-oxidation properties. Making a successful natural wine takes a notable skill as all too often natural wines seem to bring with them an array of winemaking faults.
Jean Foillard’s son, Alex, born in 1992, has started to establish himself as a name to watch; his wines are made in his father’s cellars and follow a similar approach to his winemaking, using indigenous yeasts and fermenting whole clusters. However, unlike his father who rarely adds sulphur dioxide, Alex opts to add a very small dose just before bottling.
Alex studied agriculture at the Lycée Agricole in Montpellier and qualified with a degree in viticulture and enology from Beaune. He has already ensured at a young age that he has experienced winemaking at different estates and in different countries, having carried out internships in Nuits St. Georges and Australia. Typing this, I start to feel myself become a touch envious; he has achieved a lot at a very young age - but there is more…at 24 years of age, he purchased his own vineyards, rather than being solely focused on assisting his father at the family’s domaine. He now owns a hectare in each of the Crus of Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly, which he converted to organic viticulture in advance of his first vintage in 2016 and is yet to have his vineyards certified.
I loved a comment from a US importer who suggested that Alex’s wines have something that is unmistakably Foillard; for sure there is a signature, which the US agent describes as ‘seductive aromatics, a silky texture and a downright deliciousness’. I concur with those sentiments entirely – downright deliciousness sums up the instant appeal of these wines. To me, the best Beaujolais capture a more-ish juiciness to their fruit, show fine purity and prove remarkably versatile wines in terms of how you choose to serve them. What has proven fascinating over the twenty odd years that I have worked in wine, is just how far the bar has been lifted in the region…Beaujolais has been performing incredibly well in recent vintages and the grape variety, Gamay, is attracting a new generation of consumers, drawn in by the accessibility of the style and the generally elevated quality to which a few superb growers in the region have contributed. The best wines are perhaps more serious than they were when I entered the trade, but they haven’t lost their identity, rather the difference between crus and growers’ signature styles has been magnified and there is far greater diversity than ever before today, and crucially the wines continue to be offered at very favourable price points.
I have included two notes below from critics, one from vinous.com and one from robertparker.com
2017 Brouilly, Alex Foillard
£110 per 6 bottle case in bond
Made from 50 year-old Gamay vines grown on granite with shallow soils in the lieu-dit (named vineyard) of La Folie. Half the cuvée is aged in old barrels, half in concrete for the first six months, followed by six months further ageing in bottle before release.
92+, Josh Raynolds, vinous.com
Brilliant violet. Vivid, mineral-accented blue fruit and floral pastille scents, along with a hint of exotic spices. Juicy and precise on the palate, offering bitter cherry and blueberry flavors that open up steadily on the back half. Shows excellent clarity and a spicy touch on the long, smoky finish, which features even tannins and a repeating cherry note.
92+ William Kelley, robertparker.com
The 2017 Brouilly wafts from the glass with aromas of sweet red cherries, citrus rind and flowers. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, succulent and enveloping, with a fleshy core of fruit, ripe acids and fine concentration. One-third of the cuvée was matured in used barrels, the balance in cement tank. This cuvée is typically firmer and more structured than Alex's Côte de Brouilly, turning appellation stereotypes on their heads, but this vintage is the exception.
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All the best,