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Know Your Grapes: Maréchal Foch

Foch the man

A mainstay of Midwest, Northeastern, and Canadian winery lists for years, Maréchal Foch (often just called Foch) is a French hybrid dating to 1921. As the name suggests, it is of French origin, and bred from crossing vitis vinifera with hardier American varieties. It is the sibling of Leon Millot, another hybrid mainstay. It is named after Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during World War One (who famously, and accurately, said of the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years").

Once widely planted in its homeland, especially in the Loire, it has fallen out of favor in its homeland due to laws banning hybrids in favor of vinifera. Hardy in severe winters, it found a home in cold climate North American regions beginning in the 1940s as a welcome alternative to having to bury more tender varietals every winter. It also ripens by the end of September, giving growers more insurance against inclement weather. Foch will often be seen next to Chambourcin on many winery offerings, but where Chambourcin may be compared to a Pinot Noir, Foch is more of a hybrid Gamay. Like Gamay, winemakers will sometimes have Foch undergo carbonic maceration to make a lighter style. Rosé Foch is likewise common, as are semi-sweet styles, and occasionally, sparkling versions are made. More than one highly rated Oregon wine contains a splash of Foch to add color and complexity.

Foch the grape

Deep red in color, high in acidity, and low in tannins, it is suitable to oak aging. Besides its dark color, Foch often displays notes of black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, coffee, smoke, vanilla and spice. It is expected to have a juicy, well-rounded finish.

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