2015 Domaine Jean Foillard, Fleurie, Cru Beaujolais, France.
Jean Foillard, who took over his father’s domaine in 1980, is one of the legendary Cru Beaujolais producers and best known for his stylish wines from his vineyards that are are planted on the Côte du Py, the famed slope outside the town of Villié-Morgon and the pride of Morgon, but he also has a tiny parcel in Fleurie that makes for maybe his most exotic and perfumed bottling of Gamey Noir. These vines sit on rare pink granite, while his Morgon vines on set on the regions classic granite and schist soils that sit on an alluvial fan at the highest point above the town making for super intensity and vigor as well as imparting great complexity, for which Foillard is famous for, as well as the finessed winemaking that rivals the best of the region. Foillard’s Morgons, as noted by Kermit Lynch, his importer, are deep, structured and evocative, with a (sexy) velvety lushness that makes them irresistible when young despite their aging potential. It is pretty well known now that, Jean raises his wines in older barrels sourced from top estates in Burgundy, one being Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, which a logical decision for someone crafting Gamay in a traditional Burgundian style. Kermit also notes, Foillard was greatly inspired by natural wine guru Jules Chauvet, a traditionalist who defied everything that the more commercial brands were touting in the region and wanted to go back to pre-industrial organic farming and not use chemical additives in the cellar. Jean and three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton, soon joined in on the movement, This became the Gang of Four, as Kermit christened them, who called for a return to the old practices of viticulture and vinification, starting with old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting later for ripe density, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding only minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or none at all, and refusing both chaptalization (the addition of sugar in the must) and or filtration, all to promote purity and terroir.
The Foillard Fleurie is made exclusively from a single hectare and sourced from two lieux-dits, Grille-Midi and Champagne (where top Dutraive’s, the king of Fleurie has his best parcels), of organic 45 to 50 years old vines set on the mentioned pink granite and sandstone that give this Cru its unique personality and heightened perfumed character, and this 2015 with its warm vintage fullness is a seductive and hedonistic wine that rivals the famed 2009! Foillard for this wine used native yeasts as per normal and the whole cluster fermentation lasted about 4 weeks before racking to those neutral (used) Burgundy barrels a total of 9 months in oak. Foillard also choses to hold back his Fleurie in the cellar, in bottle for an extra year, so when his Cote du Py, his signature wine comes out the very limited production Fleurie is on the previous vintage, making it always a touch more polished and elegant on release. This 2015 is still remarkably fresh and fruit dominate with a dark grapey essence and purply color in the glass, it is well structured and lively with layers of sweet plum, black cherry, currant and strawberry fruits as well as a hint of savory spice, mineral tones, crushed violets, walnut hard wood and a stemmy/herbal edgy/grip that doesn’t rise to the level of aggressiveness, but adds a contrast to the opulence and succulent mouth feel. Nice underlying acidity also helps cut the impression of weight keeping things wonderfully vivid in this impressive Fleurie, it has at least another decade of almost heroic decadence ahead it it, this is gorgeous stuff for those lucky enough to get their hands on some. Foillard’s 2016 are a touch retrained by comparison, but well crafted, and I am on my seat’s edge waiting for the thrilling and dynamic 2017’s, which will not have the weighty seduction of the 2015’s, though should make up for it in vitality, class and purity.
($54 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive