What with all the wine world still working themselves into a veritable frenzy over the volatile beast that is “Natural” wine, it was most refreshing to sit down over lunch with Artisan Winemaker Julien Sunier and discuss his take on things “Natural” and how they relate to his beloved Beaujolais.
Whilst Sunier doesn’t use the N word to describe his craft, he certainly goes out of his way to produce what I’ll refer to as “Real” wines. Oh, and for the record, he’s not scared to use a little bit of sulphur when he deems it necessary… a wise man indeed.
Immediately upon welcoming us to his farm (we caught him while he was cleaning out his old press) Sunier proclaimed that for him the best bottle of wine is always an empty bottle. Words to live by methinks, and in tune with his opening statement over the following hours I came to understand that he certainly believes in living life to the full.
A native of Burgundy proper, Sunier spent four years working with Momessin before deciding that Beaujolais was the place for him. Making Cöte de Brouilly, Morgon, Fleurie, Juliénas, and Saint-Amour for four years in the cellars at Monternot allowed him to hone his admirable Gamay skills and finally gain the confidence to think about putting his own name on a few bottles of wine. In 2008 his vinous dream became a reality.
He now organically farms three hectares of of 40 year old vines in Réginié, Fleurie, and Morgon, and often speaks of tending his vineyards as if they were a vegetable garden. This level of care certainly translates to the glass, with all three of his bottlings showing splendid terroir-specific definition. All of his wines see through a full carbonic maceration, and yet show none of the unappealing signs of such practices, most probably due to his careful handling of the wines oxygen exposure post ferment. It’s really, really good juice.
With his wines slowly being exposed to a broader market throughexport to Japan, Australia, and the US, Julien Sunier is most certainly a Winemaker to watch. And if we are lucky he might just send some of his wine to Canada!
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Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he was seriously fond of both Julien’s wines and his wife’s terrine!