Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tasting Notes: Marechal Foch

Brad Posts:

My affinity for Marechal Foch, a French-American hybrid red wine grape (a cold-hardy varietal), is well established.  As the Rodney Dangerfield of the Midwest wine grape community – it doesn’t get much respect!  That’s unfortunate because if you were to investigate Marechal Foch, commonly referred to as “Foch”, you would soon recognize its real potential.  Foch is made into world-class wines in Ontario’s VQA region and most notably in Oregon where it is grown next to its relative, Pinot Noir.

Even my wine club, the Eastern Iowa Wine Club, has a soft spot in its heart for Foch.  Each year, during our annual amateur wine competition (Eastern Iowa Amateur Wine Competition), we honor the Marechal Foch with a special category and award known as the “Fochy”.  A true honor to win this inspiring trophy!

Recently I have taken to learning more about wine appreciation by enrolling in a class at Des Moines Community College.  In my VIN 150 class, I am learning about the wine industry, wine appreciation, and sensory analysis of the traditional wine grapes – vitis vinifera.  It is too frigid for vinifera in Iowa so we grow cold-hardy grapes, such as Foch.  Intrigued by my new education, I sought to learn more about the varietal tasting characteristics of Marechal Foch.  In my firsthand experience as a vintner and occasional drinker of Foch I’ve developed my own way of understanding this grape – and use the term “Fochy” to describe it.  Not being terribly satisfied with my ability to describe Foch in a thoughtful, wine-guy sort of way I thought I’d spend some time reading and compiling a list of common tasting notes.

Here goes!

Color: Deep color, deep purple, dark ruby

Berry: Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry
Tree Fruit: Cherry (spicy black cherry)
Fruit: Prune (black plums), figs – dark fruits*
            Fresh: Bell Pepper
Spicy: Black pepper
Earthy: Forest floor, earthiness*,
            Burned: smoky*, charred buckwheat, coffee, chocolate
Gamy aromatics*
Floral: Rose

Berry: Dark berries, raspberry, loganberry
Tree Fruit: Cherry (spicy),
Fruit: Dark fruit, plum
            Fresh: celery-like, ripe beet
Earthy: Forest floor, earthiness
Saddle leather

Reminiscent of: Syrah, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Grenache Noir, Mourvedre

Common Marechal Foch Adjectives: unique, distinctive, rugged, hybrid, gamy, herbaceous.

FINAL THOUGHTS: With Foch it seems you either love it or hate it.  I cannot help but be inspired by the winemakers of Ontario and Oregon who continue to work with this challenging grape.  The wine industry in Iowa is young and the first plants we planted were Foch and frequently the first grapes to be pulled out were also Foch.  There is much to be learned by this wine grape, first of which is Patience – patience in learning its peculiarities, patience in learning how to craft delicious, albeit, unique and distinctive wine.  And secondly, patience from our vineyard, in understanding and enhancing its growth potential.  Finally, there needs to be an appreciation from wine consumers, a daring, a spirit of adventure to try something that is “earthy, gamy, spicy, and smoky” – that sounds like a real treat to me!


  1. Brad,

    I find that Foch tends to be more Melbac, Cab Franc, Merlot, Zin. In character. Here at August Cellars we treat it like a big red wine. Barrel age it for 1.5 years then bottle age it some more. I have Foch in my basement that goes back to 1994. It ages well. It also makes a great "Port"

    Tom Schaad
    August Cellars

  2. Foch deserves respect - in the vineyard, in the winery and on the consumer's table. Many Ontario wineries made wonderful examples, but in recent years these have been fewer and fewer, as marketers and accountants have their way. Fads and fashion shouldn't matter. The fact is that Foch produces excellent red wines. It deserves top-notch winemaking and top-notch promotion.

    1. I agree. Our foch is a reliable producer, winter hardy, and an early ripener- important at 48'30'' and 2400 ft. We produce a foch single, expressing a soft dark cherry dominance, but also use it as a rich blender, taking advantage of it's chameleon nature, to add power and brix to other varietals which may fall short in our unique climate and growing season.