The domaine of Julien Sunier is one of the most exciting new tiny properties to come out of the Beaujolais in recent years. Originally from Dijon, Burgundy, Sunier’s family was not in the wine trade. His mother in fact made her living cutting hair, and one of her regular clients happened to (auspiciously) be Christophe Roumier.
When Julien graduated from school, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, so he decided to go work with Roumier, which started his passion for wine. He spent his early twenties globe-trotting on the international wine route. His travels took him to California and New Zealand, allowing him to both surf and work harvest in both hemispheres. When he returned to Burgundy, Julien worked alongside winemakers Nicolas Potel in Nuits Saint-Georges and Jean-Claude Rateau in Beaune, where he solidified a passion for organic and biodynamic viticulture.
Following his stint in Burgundy, Julien spent five years managing a large negociant where he worked with growers in all of the 10 Cru Beaujolais villages. This work proved to be invaluable as it gave him a strong understanding of the various microclimates throughout the region.
In the spring of 2008, Julien established a domaine more inline with his ideas of organic viticulture and natural winemaking. He secured three hectares of densely planted, old-vine, hilltop parcels in the Cru villages of Fleurie, Morgon and Régnié. Currently, he is converting all of his vineyards to organic viticulture (six acres are certified Agriculture Biologique, 4 acres are in organic conversion, and the remaining 10 acres are meadow). Harvesting entirely by hand, Julien does whole cluster, indigenous yeast fermentations in concrete vats at low temperatures in an effort to preserve fresh fruit flavors and a delicate tannin structure. After the alcoholic fermentations are complete, the fruit is slowly and gently pressed over a 24-hour period using an ancient vertical press Julien acquired in the Côte D’Or. The wines are then aged for up to 8 months in a combination of 3 - 9 year old Burgundy barrels that he gets from Christophe Roumier and stainless steel tanks.
The resulting wines are exceptionally pure, elegant and without artifice. They are at once bright, floral and high-toned but with an ethereal texture and a beguiling, long finish. While you would be hard pressed to try and delay the immediate gratification of drinking the wines young, they have the depth and balanced structure to reward medium-term cellaring.
The New York Times: Easygoing Overachievers
Wine Advocate 8/2017
"There is no point in me banging on about the quality of Julien's wines because I have done exactly that within previous reports...There is always something 'honest' about Julien Sunier's wines, reflecting the joie-de-vivre of their vineyards. As usual, they come recommended."
Wine Advocate 6/2016
"Julien Sunier seems to be one of the main drivers for the revolution that is sweeping through Beaujolais at the moment. He is an outgoing and outspoken winemaker, even predisposed to criticize his fellow vignerons' wines when I was tasting them at his winery high up on the hills in northern Beaujolais. If he ever tires of making wine he would make a fine if formidable wine critic. As usual he was in disarmingly candid form... "We cropped at 30 hl/ha in 2015," he told me. "I didn't want to go for power like in 2009 and 2010 because I am bored of that. The entire crop was aged in 10- to 15-year-old barrels. I don't care about color, I don't care about a lot of things these days. My wines should be drunk in the first 5 years." Julien Sunier's wines are certainly much more on the fresher, leaner side - terroir expressive wines that care little for the intensity of fruit and aim more for balance and tension. While many winemakers professed that 2015 was a bona fide great Beaujolais vintage, Julien was much more sanguine and admitted that he has a preference for the 2014s, undoubtedly a growing season that is more to his style. Still, that did not preclude him from creating some very fine and delicious 2015s, even if he is cooler about them than others."