Julie Balagny

Beaujolais, France

Behind unassuming, heavy iron-clad doors we find Julie Balagny's new residence, tucked away behind a litany of farming and oenological utensils in various states of decay. Julie's an enigmatic character, and even at her home there's a quiet sense of reservation to her. Walking up to the vineyard sites is no easy feat, and as we trudged up the precariously perched at the tops of steep slopes I found myself watching my footing, seeking out large slabs of basalt where I might find the best traction. The bitterly cold February wind doesn't seem to bother Julie, as she points out various points of reference, like shelters for her sheep, or lines of soil demarkation. From the top of the slope we can see an array of stones twinkling underfoot, quartz and basalt mingle with flecks of pink granite, flanking the gnarled, low-profile vines dotting the hillside. And as I myself ponder the impossibility of farming such a site, how backbreaking the work, there's Julie calmly floating about in the periphery, pulling up the odd weed here or there.

Back in the chai Julie tastes us through the wines at the time still in barrel. She starts with a warning, that the wines may be disjointed, because the winds have been blowing in all directions for the last week, rather than the cardinal patterns they normally follow. She moves on quickly but it's an important point - a measure of Julie's connection to the elements around her. The 2019 vintage seems a relatively painless one, with cuvées vinifying to dryness quickly and without issue. Each is open and expressive even in their youth. It's no secret that Julie's wines have seemingly found their stride, after her first vintage in 2010 and years prior under the tutelage of Yvon Metras, she's certainly got some experience under her belt. And that experience is reflected in her winemaking - the wines are vinified in the same way as many of the Beaujolais' greats, with grapes undergoing cold carbonic maceration and nothing further until pressing, which is long and slow, in a massive (and ancient) press. That delicate approach shows in the wines, each with a real purity of fruit and reflection of it's proper terroir. And yet, despite their commitment to singularity of place, the wines also show glimpses of Julie herself, at first reserved, and gently opening up to show wonderful generosity and warmth.