A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Marechal Foch - Finger Lakes, New York
Marechal Foch belongs to a group of grapes that are informally referred to as the French Hybrids. We've taken a look at a few of these hybrids and I've written fairly extensively about their history in my post on the Chambourcin grape, which interested readers are invited to peruse at their leisure. For those who are fanatical about the proper placement of diacritical marks, I do realize that the grape's proper French spelling is technically Maréchal Foch, but since the French have decided that they're too good for hybrid grapes, I've decided that the Americanized spelling is good enough for me.
Maréchal is the French word for "marshal" and the grape is named for a French general named Ferdinand Foch who was named Maréchal de France in 1918. Foch was also the Allied Supreme Commander in charge of all French, British and American armies in France during World War I. He was heavily involved in creating the armistice treaty that ended that war, though he was prescient enough to say at the time "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years." Foch himself didn't have anything to do with the creation of the grape that now bears his name. It was created in Alsace which, those of you who are up on your geography know, is located right on the border between France and Germany. Alsace has gone back and forth between the two countries several times. It was annexed by Germany in 1871 but France got it back after World War I (and later lost it prior to WWII, regaining it again after that war). The grape's creator, Eugene Kuhlmann, named it for the great French general as an homage.
Unusually for a hybrid grape, Marechal Foch's parentage isn't precisely known. Most hybrids are created in laboratory type conditions, so there is usually a lot of documentation for them, but, perhaps because of the precarious location of Alsace through World War II, the documentation for Marechal Foch isn't complete. Some believe that it is a product of a grape called Goldriesling (itself a cross between Riesling and Courtillier Musqué) and an unidentified vine that was itself a crossing between a v. riparia and a v. rupestris vine. Others believe that it is the offspring of Pinot Noir and a hybrid called Oberlin 595. Whatever the case, the grape was commercially introduced in France in 1920 and in the US in 1951, having come over from Canada. The vine yields small bunches of small grapes which are apparently virtually irresistible to birds. It is grown to some extent in the Loire Valley, though those grapes cannot legally be used for any commercial wine production. It does bud early and ripen fairly late, which you would think would make it unpopular in colder regions, but it is grown fairly successfully in Canada and in the Finger Lakes region of New York.