PA Wine School: Marechal Foch

Chambour-huh? Vidal who? Need some help demystifying some of Pennsylvania’s most essential wine words? The PA Wine Land Post is at your service, schooling you on the grapes you need to know.

Varietal: Marechal Foch (mar-esh-shall-fosh)

Grown: Across Pennsylvania

Similar to: Beaujolais or Saperavi

Developed in France in the 1910s, this hybrid grape is famous for its deep red color and cold-hardiness. When the varietal came to the United States in 1946, it was renamed “Maréchal Foch” in honor of Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a prominent French General of the First World War. Rumor has it that the moniker is a morbid reference to wine’s hue — and its similarity to the blood spilled by his troops during battle. The hybrid is a teinturier, the rare red grape where both the skin and the flesh are red; Chambourcin and Saperavi are two other famous examples.

Once it came to the New World, the grape thrived in climates as challenging as Canada and Minnesota. It also took root on the East Coast, producing earthy wines boasting plenty of dark fruit character.

There are two typical styles for wines made with Marechal Foch. One is created via carbonic maceration — the technique used to make Beaujolais — and produces wines that are a bit softer and fruitier, with notes of sour cherry and blackberry. The other is traditionally fermented and aged in oak, leading to flavors of smoke, vanilla, spice, and musk. The grape can also be employed in port-style wines, showcasing notes of toasted wheat, mocha, fresh coffee, and bitter chocolate. Thanks to its saturated color, this popular hybrid is often deployed in blends to boost the vibrancy.

Pair your bottle of oak-aged Marechal Foch with steak, blue cheese, or red-sauce Italian fare. If the wine is made in the Beaujolais style, think lighter and brighter: tuna niçoise, slightly spicy curry, or a platter of creamy cheeses.