High-Altitude, High-Energy Fleurie Debut
2009 Balagny En Remont "Jean Barrat"
Yvon Metras' Young Protege
Julie Balagny is a one woman show who lovingly tends a 3.2ha parcel in En Remont. She plows herself, tends the vines herself. I don't want to over-emphasize Balagny's outsider status or her gender, and frankly, if the wines weren't so good, none of this would be interesting...
But the wines are that good, and it is difficult to ignore a young, dynamic Parisian settling in Beaujolais to make wine - great wine.
In Fleurie's high-altitude and obscure En Remont vineyard, Julie Balagny is making compelling, high-energy Beaujolais that shows off not only inherent quality, but also a heartfelt and sincere engagement with this forgotten site.
One has to applaud such courage and be grateful that, in a region where relatively affordable land is snapped up every other day by some of the biggest houses in the wine world, Beaujolais has found such a thoughtful, quality-committed young ambassador.
The 2009 vintage is her debut, and if her 09s are any indication, Julie Balagny is certainly a producer to watch.
Today we present this debut: the luscious, nervy, floral-expressive Fleurie En Remont "Jean Barrat"
Balagny's En Remont displays its high-altitude origins in its piercing brightness, which acts as the perfect counterpoint to 09's rich fruit. The fruit quality is fantastically complex, with luscious dark berry fruit backed up by brighter, floral notes complicated by bits of crushed spices and spent tea leaves.
Hail reduced yields to a scant 20ha/hl, which shows itself in the wine's sheer concentration and energetic power.
Balagny was previously winemaker at Terre des Chardons in southern France, but of course, no one can tackle a new region without some sage advice. And when it comes to counsel, Balagny has some of the best: Fleurie's own cult winemaker, Yvon Metras, who alerted Balagny that the vineyards in En Remont were available to be rented.
Metras also provided insight in the cellar, and in terms of vinification (duration of maceration, fermentation temperatures, etc.) Balagny's and Metras' methods are very similar. The non-interventionist methods, however, yield significantly different wines, with Balagny's expressing decidedly more nervosity and higher-toned fruit.
Balagny is convinced that En Remont, with its well-exposed, south-facing slopes and fascinating geology, can make first-class Fleurie. Like much of the eastern section of Fleurie (Roilette, Garants, etc.), there's more clay over the granite soils. This is a stony vineyard with some volcanic influence along with quartz and a small amount of manganese. The result is bright, concentrated fruit wrapped around a nervy core, and some of the meatiness and grip associated with Moulin-à-Vent and its neighboring vineyards in Fleurie.
I want to wrap this up with a final comparison that I hope conveys some spirit of this place: While touring Balagny's vines in En Remont (they're beautifully healthy amidst lush cover crops), I was reminded of Ulli Stein, whose commitment to the forgotten terraced vineyards of the lower Mosel we've emailed about before. There's a wildness to En Remont that's similar to Ulli Stein's beloved St. Aldegunder Palmberg-Terrassen. The connection goes beyond the physical and captures the spirit of the enterprise; a commitment to making great, expressive wine in a forgotten corner of the world.
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