Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Julienas
This is Part 5 in a series on the Crus of Beaujolais. To catch up on what you may have missed, visit our guide to the 10 Crus.
Now we tackle Julienas.
If Juliénas sounds a bit like Julius Caesar, it’s because they were actually making wine here 2000 years ago and, at least according to one theory, Julius did in fact give the AOC its name (as well the name of its principal village, also Juliénas, and maybe even another village in the AOC, Jullie). When I learn stuff like that it gives me great hope that quality wine production will continue in the great vineyards of France despite climate change. After all, the climate has varied wildly in the last two thousand years (there was a pretty warm period in the Middle Ages, for example, though we have now surpassed those previous record highs), and yet they have stuck with it all this time… though I haven’t seen any tasting notes from 11th century Cru Beaujolais.
Juliénas is at the northern end of the Crus and is fairly high in elevation, especially at its very northern end. But its steep slopes point due south and suck up sunshine. It’s easy to ripen grapes here. The soils stand out from elsewhere, as there is less granite in Juliénas than in any other Cru. But there are pockets of granite here and there, as well as schist, clay and other soil-types, so it’s really a bit of a jumble and you have to pay attention to individual sites (yeah, because just mastering all the Crus isn’t hard enough!) .
The varied terroirs ensure that there is no specific Juliénas “flavor,” although some people identify strawberry and spice. Others say peaches. I also find cherries. In general, they are sturdy wines, for Cru Beaujolais, with more fleshy structure than, say, Chiroubles or Brouilly.
Many such “pearls” consist of Juliénas wines produced by domaines based in or better known for other Crus. In recent years (certainly after the first version of this blog was published back in 2013) a number of delicious Juliénas from very top producers in other Crus have come on to the market. I’ll review some of them below.
But there is also an excellent producer who is very much a Juliénas specialist that you must get to know. It’s the Domaine du Clos du Fief, more commonly known by the name of its current proprietor, Michel Tete, whose father started the family habit of making and bottling his own wine.
I would put Tete into the pre-Chauvet style of Beaujolais: semi-carbonic but quite Burgundian. It’s a style that really is quite traditional in Beaujolais. Like some of the other producers we follow, he produces an easier, drink-now version of his wine, just called “Juliénas,” and a “Cuvee Prestige,” that you’re supposed to put away in your cellar for a few years. It was actually a 10-year-old version of the Cuvee Prestige that first woke me up to the potential of ageing Cru Beaujolais, and ever since I’ve put away a little each year. I recently had a 2005 Cuvee Prestige from my cellar that was fabulous!
There are, as I mentioned above, a couple of interesting Juliénas to try from producers based elsewhere. One is the great Fleurie producer Chignard, who acquired one of the top parcels in Juliénas, called Beauvarnay. Their first vintage was 2012. It’s one of the granite-heavy parts of the Juliénas and the vines are 60 years old, so it’s a pretty special wine.
There is now also a Juliénas produced by the great domaine of M & C Lapierre (M & C are Mathieu and Camille, the children of Marcel Lapierre who took over the domain after Marcel’s passing in 2010). They make their Juliénas from purchased grapes grown in the lieu dit of Côte de Bessay, where the soils are volcanic and schist-based rather than granitic. It’s a must-try.
Another important addition to the Juliénas roster is one from the culty Fleurie producer Yann Bertrand. He decided to make a wine from 60 year old vines in a site called En Rizière, because he was fascinated by its unique terroir of white crumbly soils with granite, schist and oxidized minerals. Like all his wines, it combines power and intensity with soul, although this time the soul is Juliénas.
Like this blog post? You can learn more about Beaujolais Crus here:
- Starting with Part 1, our introduction to the 10 Crus,
- Part 2 is a focus on Moulin-à-Vent,
- Part 3 is a focus on Morgon,
- Part 4 is a focus on Fleurie and
- Part 5 is a focus on Juliénas.
- In Part 6 we look at both the Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly.
- Part 7 is Chiroubles,
- Part 8 is Régnié,
- And Part 9 finishes up with the two remaining crus, St. Amour and Chénas.