The region is also where it all happened a few years after World War 2 : industrialization and co-op mentality was then full-blown in the winemaking and viticulture world, and someone named Jules chauvet, a resident of Beaujolais who was a winemerchant/oenologist/winetaster re-invented at this crucial time the way winemaking was thought, with studies about the chaptalization, indigenous yeats (and how they best work) and sulphur (this multi-faceted genius also designed the modern tasting glass used today). This led to the natural-wine revolution which got its first results when wine critics saw the results in the wines.
He began working in viticulture and wine in 1982, first on the family estate, then renting and buying vineyards. Today his estate has a total surface of 11 hectares.
After we sat along the nice long and massive wooden table (3,5 meter long), he brought glasses for the tasting :
__1 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2004. Substance. Silky. Nice wine indeed. Côte du Py is a climat of the Morgon Appellation where the vineyards grow on slopes with crumbly schists soil that give Gamay a unique expression. The Cote du Py hill is actually an extinct volcano, with lots of different types of soils depending of the plots.
Speaking about the work in the vineyard, Jean Foillard says he works with two employees (his wife does the accounting) and some additional "tacherons", this is a lot of work for 3 people, especially that the Vineyard is in goblet (an obligation in the Appellation) and that the density is high (10 000/hectare). Harvest has to be manual in the Beaujolais like in Champagne : in 2005, he needed 30 people plus cooks (to feed the company) for 17 days.
__2 Jean Foillard Beaujolais (generique). Blending of vats and foudres. He says at the beginning, from 1982 to 1985, he worked like everybody around, that is, the "traditional", industry type of work. Then, with the help of Marcel Lapierre, he initiated the type of viticulture and winemaking that ultimately changed the quality of his wines. He now uses the softest possible viticulture, but his wines are not officially organic nor biodynamic labelled, even though he actually applies many of the rules. What is important for him, he says, is the result in the bottle, and the certifications on the labels are not his first concern.
__3 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 1997. He opens the bottle for us ! Wax topped bottled like all his Morgon Cote du Py (he says the sommeliers hate that...). Lightly turbid Gamay. Dark colour. Non filtered. Kirsch nose. His wife joined us and the 4 of us sip down the bottle quite fast, no spitting [See picture upper left with Jean Foillard holding his glass] . The wine is both unfiltered and unsulphured (also for this 1997 Morgon). He checks the wine along its elevage with precise bacteria-counting at the lab. No real risk. This wine stayed in casks between end-october 1997 to june 1998. While we speak, 15 minutes after the bottle was uncorked, the wine is already much more open. Opulent-mouth feel.
Jean Foillard then shows us the rooms he rents : 5 well-renovated spacy rooms with bathrooms . He says that even though the building had to be thoroughly renovated, he kept things like they were designed by the original builders, like these ceiling tiles I pictured in the tasting room [picture on right]. He ordered new tiles made on the same design and this gives warmth to the place. In France, there is a room-rental system known as "chambre d'hôte" or gîte system, and an increasing number of vigneron renovate private rooms to accommodate visitors and tourists. Visiting the Beaujolais while staying at Jean Foillard's...nice program...
He shows us now the cask cellar : Very simple basic unsophisticated cellar. He buys one-year-old casks and uses them for 10 years, with the goal of wood staying in the background. He also has 2 foudres. The one on the picture (which has a 28 hectoliter capacity) is 40 years old. The father of his father-in-law was a cooper in the region. Jean Foillard says he himself learned how to take apart and reassemble a foudre (he did it for the one on the pic), something you have to do when you want to bring a foudre through a cellar door. All you need is not to panic and be meticulous (all the pieces of the puzzle must be reassembled each with the same orientation). And if you wait more than 24 hours to reassemble the foudre, forget it, as after that delay the wood imperceptibly changes its shape and the pieces won't fit together again. That's interesting to hear that, I understand even an old foudre is something alive...
His wines are sold in France (cavistes) and exported (30%) to the UK, Belgium, Holland, Spain (through Lavinia), the U.S. (Kermit Lynch) and Japan through Racines (Mrs Goda) and Cosmojun (Junko Arai).