Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poor Foch!

Brad Post:

"I don't get no respect" is a line from the late Rodney Dangerfield and must surely be the sentiment of our grape friend, Marechal Foch. Marechal Foch is named after a French Marshall (military rank), Ferdinand Foch, from WWI who helped negotiate the armistice. The Foch grape is a hybrid and was developed by French viticulturist Eugene Kuhlmann in Alsace in the early 1920's and brought to the United States in the '50s.

Foch has grown widely in popularity in Canada and the United States, but is no longer grown by the Europeans because of hybrid restrictions. "Wines made from Marechal Foch tend to have strong acidity, aromas of black fruits and, in some cases, toasted wheat, mocha, fresh coffee, bitter chocolate, vanilla bean, and musk" (1).

In Iowa and parts of the Midwest, Marechal Foch has achieved a bad reputation because of its strong varietal characteristics, frequently with powerful vegetative overtones probably a result of poor enological practices (green stems in ferment or fermented on the skins for too long) or harvest decision (overripe).

Because of the powerhouse characteristics of Foch it is recommended to vintners by those in the know to use the following techniques: 1) hot press (to extract colors quickly), 2) carbonic maceration (e.g., similar to how Beaujolais is made - in a sealed vessel purged of oxygen), or 3) Press off skins quickly or after a very short maceration (e.g., think of a blush wine) (2).

I have tasted very good Foch from a couple wineries in Iowa: Prairie Moon and Summerset Winery in the Des Moines area.

In an attempt to challenge and elevate Marechal Foch the Eastern Iowa Wine Club's - Eastern Iowa Amateur Wine Competition is creating a special category for the Foch, called the "Fochy" award! It is our goal to make a wonderful, Burgundian-styled, wine from this disrespected Midwestern hybrid.

If you are interested in tasting for yourself: Come to the Benton County Fair (Vinton, IA) on July 23rd for the judging - visitor can also taste the wines and vote for their favorites.

~Happy Tastings!


1. Wikipedia
2. Iowa State University - Viticulture
3. Prairie Moon Winery
4. Summerset Winery


  1. Words mean things: I'd be interested in why the grape is named Foch.

    What did the French Field Marshal do to deserve this honor? I am not aware of a Petain hybrid - but that doesn't mean that one doesn't exist.

    If you have info as to the "why", I'd be most interested.

  2. Brother are you serious? Did you read the posting or were you drinking heavily when you read it? LOL.

    The grape varietal is named after famed French Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch (the Foch-part of Foch) the official who helped negotiate the end to WWI (the first Big One).

    Not sure what you mean by "Petain hybrid"? I suspect you are referring to Marechal Petain...but am not sure how it relates to the Foch grape?


  3. Well, was the hybrid named for Foch in recognition for the negotiation? If so, given the results 20 years later the name should have been withdrawn.

    And yes. Petain was also a French Field Marshal and I wondered if it was some sort of bizarre French strategy to name grape hybrids after senior officers.

    My question stands: why Foch?

  4. Why Foch? I cannot speak for Eugene Kuhlmann, a Frenchman, but I suspect he liked the cut of Mr. Foch's jib. That's the best I have. :)

  5. I have a question: I was at a wedding reception over the weekend and tried their Marechal Foch and did not enjoy it--in fact I couldn't drink more than a couple sips. The reason being it had a VERY strong pickled vinegar flavor. I normally love dry red wines, but have admittedly never tried a foch until this weekend. Is this common, or had their wine turned?

  6. I of course left out a key piece of my question--the reception was at the Prairie Moon Winery...