2019 Wild Soul, Domaine Julien Sunier, Beaujolais
Sunier is one of a new wave of producers who’ve helped raise the profile of Beaujolais as a stronghold of natural farming and winemaking. Following in the footsteps of local legends like Lapierre and Foillard, Sunier would also be considered a disciple of the legendary Jules Chauvet, who was preaching the natural wine gospel in Beaujolais as far back as the 1950s. Yet while he hails from Burgundy (Dijon), Sunier wasn’t from a wine family; his mother was a hairdresser who counted vigneron Christophe Roumier as a client. In his twenties, Sunier followed the itinerant “cellar rat” path, interning in California and New Zealand before landing back in Burgundy, where he worked with the likes of Nicolas Potel and Jean-Claude Rateau. He then worked for the large négociant firm Mommessin, where, among other things, he became intimately acquainted with the terroir of Beaujolais and its Gamay grape.
Throughout all of Julien’s vineyard sites, each vine is chemically-untouched and tended to by hand—he’s adamant about farming organically with biodynamic principles. For his “Wild Soul” label, grapes are organically sourced from a local farmer/friend, but he vinifies the wine just as he would his Cru Beaujolais, i.e. naturally. At Julien’s winery in Avenas, the Gamay grapes underwent a cold carbonic vinification with wild, airborne yeasts. When it came time for pressing with an old-fashioned wooden press, the juice was transferred via gravity. It was then gently transferred—again, via gravity—into a combination of large concrete tanks and wide stainless steel tanks. After aging for 10 months on its fine lees, the wine was bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with just a trace amount of sulfur.
Julien purposely avoids sulfur during the vinification and aging process but does add the lightest touch right at bottling to give the wine more buoyancy, aromatic lift, and crunchy freshness. So, I advise decanting the wine for 15-20 minutes before serving in large Burgundy stems so the initial ‘prickle’ blows off. Burgundy may have its pretensions, but “Wild Soul” does not. This is a carefree yet deeply satisfying Gamay that jolts the senses with ripe and juicy raspberry, wild strawberry, blue plums, and Bing cherry alongside grape stem, rose petal, crushed granite, and savory herbs. The palate is wildly refreshing with pure, lively fruits and a crunchy snap to each layer. Enjoy now and often, slightly chilled, on any occasion. Cheers!
“Beaujolais phenom Julien Sunier’s “Wild Soul” is always one of the most addicting reds of the year—not just from Burgundy, but any region! We regretfully missed out on the ‘18, so pop, pour, and savor this high-spirited 2019 gem while it’s still available.”
Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier