Jean-François Coquard truly has wine in his blood.
For thirteen generations his family has produced wine in the Beaujolais region of France. Following in the footsteps of his father, he also worked abroad, forging a name for himself in Lombardy, Italy, where he worked with his own native grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to produce award-winning wines at Tenuta Mazzolino.
He has finally returned home after nearly twenty years to rediscover his roots and bring to life his own expression of the Gamay grape.
We tasted his wine together and decided it was the perfect opportunity to tell his story and the story of the wine, as well as to experiment with some green screen special effects on a virtual tour to his home and winery in Beaujolais.
Watch the full-length video HERE.
Learn about Gamay
You may have heard of Beaujolais Nouveau, a light, bright and ultra fruity wine made from Gamay. The grapes are crushed in a procedure called Carbonic maceration which forces Carbon Dioxide into a tank of grapes causing the fruit to collapse in on itself, and start fermenting within its own skin, in an air-tight environment. This produces the light, fruity and low-tannic structure of Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais Nouveau celebrates the end of a successful harvest. It’s meant to be enjoyed in a fleeting moment of joy, not to age for years in the cellar.
There is so much more to Beaujolais and the Gamay Grape!
Gamay is actually a cousin of Pinot Noir, which is grown in Burgundy to the North, and world-renowned. The share a lot of similar fruit, floral, and earthy notes, but whereas Pinot Noir is a thinner skinned and more temperamental to cultivate due to thinner skin and general susceptibility, Gamay can be a great alternative at a more approachable price point.
As Jean-François explains, terroir (the climate, geography, and soil type) has a huge influence on the character of the wine. He produces one wine, a Beaujolais AOC, which is juicier, quaffable and mouthwatering, a Vin de Soif. He also produced a CRU (Morgon) which grows on Granite-rich soils, and results in a much fleshier, fuller-bodied wine with the potential to age and evolve for years.
The Beaujolais appellation is divided into the following:
- Beaujolais AOC, which is the largest category with a more general classification and far less rigorous standards of growth and production. These wines be produced anywhere with the Beaujolais region.
- Beaujolais-Villages is limited to just around 40 specific growing areas in Haut Beaujolais, in the northern and hillier part of the region. Soil types vary to include more granite and schist, which lends structure and complexity to the wines. There are also limits on how many much wine the vineyard can produce per hectare to insure higher quality.
- Cru Beaujolais refers to wines exclusively produced under strict harvest standards within
Crus of Beaujolais include the following, ranging from lighter and quaffable to more structured and age-able.
Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent.
For a great round-up of their characteristics, check out this article from Vinepair in the meantime.
Notes of Gamay depend as much on terroir and CRU as they do on the winemaking style.
In light-bodied, carbonic maceration style of Beaujolais Nouveau, you’ll get a lot of lighter, younger fruit aromas like strawberry tops, summer strawberries, raspberries, and some pretty violet or violet leaf.
The Beaujolais AOCs and Beaujolais Villages vary tremendously, but a common element is their silky, mouth-watering quaffable quality and rounded, high-toned red fruit notes.
The CRUS develop with time to contain an array of aromas, starting with red current, cherry, and strawberry and maturing to include orange fruit like apricot and peach. Some Crus are more floral than others, especially the aptly named Fleurie, which is often considered the pretty princess of Beaujolais for its violet and purple powdery iris (orrus root) notes. Others are more muscular and take longer to relax, like Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Think Beauty and Beast. Beaujolais truly offers the best of both worlds!
Read more about JEAN-FRANÇOIS COQUARD
A thirteenth-generation winemaker, and the youngest of six children, for Jean-François Coquard, wine is truly a way of life.
He grew up among the family vineyards in the Pierres Dorées area of Beaujolais, immersed in every phase of the process from planting and pruning to weed pulling and harvest. Later he would assist his father and brother in the wine cellar, where he learned to taste wines and developed his palate. He pursued a degree in Biology and a Masters of Oenology from the University of Dijon in Burgundy, where he received high honors. During the course of his studies he honed his craft, focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as an intern with the prestigious Hospices de Beaune.
Upon graduation, Jean-François was recruited as head winemaker of Tenuta Mazzolino in Lombardy, Italy, a family-run winery in an emergent wine region most noted for the production of his native Burgundian grape varieties. There he spent fifteen years producing wine and managing world-wide distribution, during which time he traveled extensively and brought prestige to the Mazzolino label, earning numerous awards including the coveted Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri five years in a row for his Pinot Noir, “NOIR.”
He then returned home with his family where he continued to work as an independent consulting winemaker throughout Italy and France.
In 2017, he brought his legacy to fruition with the launch of JFC Vins, his own brand, style and concept that encapsulates his years of experience as an artisan-négociant and consultant, a portrait of his mastery in the vineyards and the cellar. “Wine is my passion and my life and I look forward to introducing my first cuvees of Gamay, Bonarda, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” he says. They are a reflection of his life story up to now, an assemblage of Italian fantasia and French élégance.
At the same time, he brings the sensitivity and nuance of a world traveller and curious bon vivant to his work. “Beaujolais, Burgundy and Lombardy will be always remain at the heart of my endeavor, but I’m not setting any limits. It’s no secret I’m even exploring the world of spirits.” Jean-François radiates positivity when discussing his project and his wines possess a palpable vitality. To Jean-François, this is not simply a dream coming true, it is the culmination of the path he was born to take, and it’s only just begun.
As a winemaker, Jean-François Coquard carries the legacy of 13 generations in the vineyard and nearly twenty years as a consultant and artisan-négociant. As a world traveller he possesses a boundless curiosity and an appreciation for diverse terroir. As a friend, father and brother his dedication knows no limits. His wines reflect a profound experience, a reverence to the earth with the living soul of a man.