Domaine Julien Sunier

Published by Sally on February 14, 2012

Route to work - view of Mont Blanc

Route to work - view of Mont Blanc

Julien Sunier is one of the new generation of producers doing excellent work in his vineyards, thus helping to revitalise the reputation of Beaujolais. He proudly says he is a first generation winemaker, and having worked for Mommessin, and Bonny Doon in California, set up by himself in 2005 in the upper reaches of the Haut Beaujolais, at an altitude of 750m above sea level, in Avenas.  Despite the altitude, he says he’s only about 15 minutes to his vineyards (downhill all the way?), which are at ‘normal’ Beaujolais altitude of 200 to 480m.

He has about a hectare each in Fleurie, Morgon and Régnié, of old vines aged between 55 and 60 years, planted at the traditional density of 10,000 vines per hectare. Having practised an organic philosophy since the start – his first vintage in was in 2008 – he will have the proof of certification from 2012. He also does a little biodynamic work with five of the preparations.

Sunier does “pretty much full carbonic maceration, with a two-to-three week maceration.” Every load is covered with carbon dioxide gas. One of the reasons, Sunier said is because he likes the crunchy style created by carbonic maceration.

He presses very slowly, over 24 hours to get clean juice and almost no gross lees. Nearly everything then goes to barrel for between 8 and 12 months. He moves the wine when the density is 1000 – 998 “while its’ still warm and fermenting.”

He said “I get my barrels from Christophe Roumier [Burgundy], they’re from 5 to 12 years old” because, he added “gamay catches oak flavours too much.” Avoiding any new oak influence in his wines, the barrel helps Sunier with lees contact and a gentle oxygenation, though he said “I’m more on the reductive side for ageing, because, without [added] sulphur dioxide, there’s less risk of oxidation.”

There are some variations of process.  The Régnié is “more the start of the range, so I make it easier, with 20% tank ageing” Sunier said, while the Fleurie “had eight months of barrel ageing in 2010, and twelve months in [the richer] 2009.”

Wine tasting, in situ, December 2011

Julien Sunier, Régnié 2010
Floral, strawberry and red cherry, light and elegant, sweet, crunchy fruit, with an attractive medium weight balance, with crunchy, fresh fruit and good length. Good density of fruits here. Lovely, fresh wine.

Julien Sunier, Morgon 2010
The nose is a bit closed today, though the palate is much more expressive, with bright red berries, and with attractive roundness of texture alongside the fresh, piquant fruits. Very nice.

Julien Sunier, Fleurie 2010
Fruit from the Madone at the top of the slope.
Silky smooth texture, warm and sweet dark-berried fruit in a succulent attack and smile-bringing, medium weighted body with gentle concentration. Lovely.

My research trip to Beaujolais in December 2011 was sponsored by Inter Beaujolais.

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