The domaine of Julien Sunier is one of the most exciting properties to come out of the Beaujolais in the last decade. Despite growing up in Dijon, Sunier was not part of a wine family. 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. He decided to work with Roumier to "see what this wine stuff is all about". He then caught the wine bug and spent his early twenties globe-trotting on the international wine route, from New Zealand to California, enabling him to 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 time in Burgundy, Julien spent five years managing a large negociant where he worked with growers in all 10 of the Cru Beaujolais villages. This work proved to be invaluable as it gave him a strong understanding of the various micro-climates and micro terroirs throughout the region.
In the Spring of 2008, Julien set out on his own to pursue his dream of establishing a domaine more in sync with his own ideas of organic viticulture and natural winemaking. He secured three hectares of densely planted, old-vine, high altitude parcels in the Cru villages of Fleurie, Morgon and Régnié. He converted all of these vineyards to organic viticulture, and is intent on spreading the gospel of natural viticulture with wild abandon. 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 11 months in 3 - 9 year old Burgundy hand-me-down barrels from his old friend, Christophe Roumier.
The resulting wines are exceptionally pure, elegant and without artifice. Perhaps it is the provenance of his barrels, but there is a bit of a Chambolle spirit that comes through in Sunier's wines (and perhaps a touch of Morey on the Morgon). They are at once bright, floral and high-tones 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.
Not one to rest on his early successes, Julien is constantly looking for new opportunities and ways to grow and refine. In response to severe losses in 2016 and 2017, Julien added a negotiant wine to his lineup: Wild Soul Beajolais-Lantignié Villages. The tiny town of Lantignié and its surrounding vineyards are perched on the western hills of the region near Villié-Morgon and Beaujeu (from where the name Beaujolais is derived). Lantignié is considered one of the best of the 38 villages allowed to attached their communal name to the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. This charming addition reminds us of Julien's creativity and resilience. We look forward to his continued rise to the forefront of the region’s most compelling producers.