Maréchal Foch is a popular French-American hybrid grape that is widely grown in the Midwest and eastern seaboard in the United States and in Canada. The variety arrived, in the US in 1946, when it was known as Kuhlmann 188-2. It was subsequently renamed Maréchal Foch in honor of Ferdinand Foch, the famous French General of WWI and planted in a number of cold climate regions.
Maréchal Foch’s early success was partly due to its resistance to marginal conditions; in the early days of the mid-20th Century, viticulturalists would bury their vines in snow to protect them from the freezing continental winters. Maréchal Foch provides reliable yields and ripens very early in the vineyard, making it a safe and attractive option in regions where most Vitis vinifera grapes struggle to ripen.
The Alsatian, Eugene Kuhlmann, is responsible for breeding Maréchal Foch from, reportedly, Goldriesling and a native American Vitis Riparia-Rupestris. This would make Maréchal Foch the genetic twin of Leon Millot. There is, however, some debate about its origins – an opposing school of thought contests that Maréchal Foch is a distant relative of Gamay (through the Oberlin 595 grape).
There are certainly some similarities between the two. Like Gamay, Maréchal Foch responds well to carbonic maceration producing wines that are light-bodied, with bright-purple coloring and black-cherry flavors. Texturally, these wines are very soft and less rustic than those wines produced by traditional winemaking practices. Whole-bunch pressing of Maréchal Foch results in a more earthen style of wine, with dark berries and a slight smokiness on the palate.
The wine can have good aging potential and respond well to maturation in American oak. Enthusiasts often compare aged Maréchal Foch with Burgundian Pinot Noir, but the variety is probably more akin to a spicy Beaujolais. It seemingly always has good levels of acidity which is further accentuated by the cool climates it is grown in.
New York State, Minnesota and Ontario are some of the most prolific regions for Maréchal Foch production, with a little planted in Oregon, the Okanagan Valley and elsewhere. The variety is no longer grown in the Loire.
Synonyms include: Foch, Kuhlmann 188-2.
Food matches include:
Europe: Tuna niçoise
Americas: Sausage and shrimp jambalaya
Australasia/Oceania: Beetroot, apple and watercress salad