Arriving in Cédric Chignard’s cellar in early March last year to blend his 2019s, I was saddened to learn that a late frost had decimated a good portion of his crop. While superlative quality certainly doesn’t make up for lost quantity, it was reassuring nonetheless to dip my nose into a sample from the first big foudre and discover a beautiful Beaujolais with a classic balance, brimming with graceful energy. Now in bottle, it emanates a floral aroma of a rare delicacy, along with that velvety-fine grain that makes Fleurie the undisputed Queen of Beaujolais’ crus.
Alex Foillard epitomizes the new generation of talent coming of age in the Beaujolais. Growing up in the Foillard household, he had privileged access to the brightest minds of natural wine, but that did not prevent him from exhibiting some ambition of his own. In order to really spread his wings, he purchased his own vineyards, including a one-hectare plot of fifty-year-old vines in Brouilly, a cru novel to the Foillard cellars. You might detect a slight southern accent in this release—a generous dash of plump, sun-ripened fruit enveloping its granite core—along with the deluxe silkiness that characterizes all Foillard bottlings.
The vigneron, who goes by the nickname P’tit Max, is perhaps the most laid-back fellow you’ll ever come across. He acts so nonchalant that it’s rather shocking to think he is a contemporary master of vinifying Gamay naturally, a feat that requires stupendous precision to achieve the desired outcome while avoiding the . . . er, smelly pitfalls sometimes associated with such methods. When asked his secret, Max simply shrugs and calmly reveals, “I don’t sleep much for two months after harvest.” The result of eighty-year-old vines, excellent vintage conditions, and many sleepless nights, this is a spicy, stony, impeccably refined Morgon from one of Beaujolais’ all-time greats.
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