Julie Balagny, Fleurie
All the visits to wineries that we made during our stay in Beaujolais were interesting, but Balagny and Métras were perhaps the most fascinating (and scary!) of all. Julie Balagny is a pupil and friend of Yvon Métras and we were originally supposed to meet them both at the same time but Métras had something else to do so at first we just met Balagny.Julie Balagny
We went to meet Balagny at her winemaking facilities. She looked like the weather that day: stormy. And violently passionate. The first impression I got was of a woman bursting with energy, determined to make the best wine she can - and that we were intruding on that endeavour. But apparently I gave the right answers when she asked us about our wine preferences. I told I preferred the lighter, less ripe vintages in Beaujolais like 2008, 2010 and very possibly 2012 and wasn't so keen on such over-ripe years as 2009. She jumped about ten meters into the air (I'm not lying!) and shouted “YEAHHHHHH!” (or was that a thunderclap?) and finally she smiled. From then on she was the sweetest host we had on the whole trip. First she took us to the barrels to taste the components of the 2012s. She has several different soils in her 3ha of Fleurie vineyards. I can't remember the details of what soil type was which barrel, but all the barrel samples were simply exquisite. Perfumed, racy, energetic and far more lovable and ready than barrel samples elsewhere. These were samples that I would be very happy to drink now; ones that I wouldn't need to make any excuses about e.g. being too young or reductive (though Balagny doesn't yet want to bottle them because she feels they are a bit too reductive still). I can't wait to have these bottled.
Then Balagny started opening bottles for us. First up was Fleurie La Carioca 2011
. I loved the wine. Considering how I had just told her that I preferred the cooler vintages, I was afraid to tell her that this was awesome. But I plucked up the courage and she took it well. It did have ripe fruit, but it was also perfumed and racy, acidic and moreish. If all warm vintage wines were as refreshing as this I wouldn't complain about hot years. I don't object to sweet fruit; I object to flabbiness.Fleurie Cayenne 2010
and Fleurie en Remont 2010
were some of the prettiest wines on this trip. Beautifully perfumed, peachy; racy, moreish, well structured but in no way harsh, sweetly fruity but with no excesses in any direction. They were so perfect that had we not had a couple more visits that afternoon I would have just sat down in some quiet corner and enjoyed the rest of these bottles all to myself. But then she opened a Fleurie Simone 2010
. IIRC this was the cuvée from quartz soils and if anything, it is even prettier than those other Fleuries. Before this wine, I thought the idea that Cayenne was a “basic” wine was ludicrous. The only problem with these wines is that perfection was followed by perfection which was followed by perfection.
Balagny is a star. She's the Foillard/Lapierre/Métras of the future.
About an hour into our visit to Balagny an environmental catastrophe on wheels arrived at her gates. Yvon Métras commands some of the highest prices of all Beaujolais. Considering his prices I was expecting someone driving a Lamborghini. Instead he took us a couple kilometers to his winery in a vehicle that in those few kms probably caused more harm to the environment than my flights from Hellsinki to Paris to Lyon to Amsterdam to Hellsinki combined!
Métras' cellars were some of the wildest I've seen. There were chickens roaming about freely, there were bookcases with cartons of eggs in them, there was a suspicious looking leg of some animal or other hanging from the roof that made this carnivore almost become a vegetarian. I wouldn't have been surprised if I had found dirty boxers somewhere.
We went out to look at his vineyards (and if you can zoom into this picture, you can see that he does have a Lamborghini!). Métras, though perhaps commanding the highest prices of any producer in Beaujolais, has only 3ha which he works by hand. No machinery and no horses, everything is done by human hands.
Métras wasn't the friendliest of people. He took us into his cellar. He crossed his arms and and looked disdainfully at us. “Why do you want to see Yvon Métras?” (Yes! He talked of himself in the 3rd person!).
I stammered that his wines are universally appreciated and that those who know of them speak of them in the same terms as of Foillard or Lapierre as some of the best wines in Beaujolais. He was not impressed.
He continued to be quiet but he did open up somewhat eventually. I asked about the history of “natural” wines and Jules Chauvet and finally he started to speak. Métras learned to make “natural” wine from Marcel Lapierre and he also knew Jules Chauvet. He showed us an empty bottle of a 1985 Chauvet Beaujolais (I forget which cru) that he had opened the previous evening. Apparently that wine was still in perfect condition - “natural” wine can age very well in good years. He said that Chauvet worked 50 years to make a technically and chemically stable wine “in the way that our grandfathers made wine”, but then when he finally perfected his technique, he died.Fleurie 2011
– Considering what Métras' cellars look like, I was expecting a dirty wine. Instead, the wine was squeaky clean and exquisitely pure. This wine is the opposite of the winery. And it is heartbreakingly beautiful.Moulin-à-Vent 2011
– I must confess that M-a-V has generally been my least favorite Cru, but Métras' was outstanding. I have usually found them impressive for their tannic structure and lack of charm. But this bottle was both tannic and charming. It also had a seductive perfume that I haven't seen in most MaVs. It was pretty awesome. It was one of the best wines I tried on this trip.Fleurie L'Ultime 2011 & 2009
– IIRC the L'ultime is the old vine cuvée. But even if I don't remember correctly, this is pretty much the perfect wine. I know I have talked of 2011 and 2009 as being vintages that are too ripe and atypical for my tastes, yet these particular wines transcend my limitations. I love these two wines. Though both may be a bit on the heavy side, both are also fantastically refreshing and moreish. The 2009 is heavier, so I prefer the fresher 2011. But really, if you see either, just buy! These are some of the most perfect Beaujolais I have come across. Even Métras smiled after he had had these wines!
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.