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We're very proud to be working with Jean-Claude Rateau, who was the fourth vigneron in France to convert to biodynamics, beginning with two hectares in 1979. On our recent visit to his spacious cellars outside of Beaune, we were delighted with the purity and minerality of his wines which offer a stark and delicious contrast to the more extracted and manipulated modern wines of Burgundy. Even in the very warm, dry 2015 vintage, Jean-Claude made beautifully balanced and elegant wines - only one case of the lovely Beaune 1er Cru "Les Reversées" remains. 2016 was a difficult but classic vintage in Burgundy that produced small quantities of sometimes brilliant wines - suffering from tiny yields, Rateau produced only one Beaune village wine from his numerous plots and tiny quantities of Beaune 1er Cru "Les Bressandes" and Gevrey-Chambertin. The "Bressandes" is a particularly great example of the elegance and structure of the vintage and exhibits the finesse and light touch in the cellar typical of Rateau. We tasted most of the 2017s before bottling and found the wines to have absolutely beautiful, round fruit while remaining in the light, fresh style preferred by Jean-Claude. (Coming soon will be his 2017 Pinot Blanc which is delicious!) The two Haute-Côtes-de-Beaunes are especially beautiful in this vintage and offer superb value for everyday enjoyment, while the Beaune "Beaux et Bons" offers gorgeous fruit for early drinking and will develop nicely over the next ten years.
We find a unique and subtle difference in Jean-Claude's Burgundies due to his 35 years of Biodynamic farming - Rateau has always believed that the soils must be alive to ensure the healthy transfer of nutrients to the vines, especially important being the mycorrhizal funghi which assimilate phosphorous and micro-nutrients and live in symbiosis with the vines' roots. He has developed a plowing regimen that encourages the life of the soil, uses natural composts and biodynamic preparations and has a varied population of wild plants in the vineyards that harbor beneficial insects. Jean-Claude's techniques in the cellar also enable the production of real wines of terroir. Fermentations are solely with wild-yeasts and stems are included in proportion depending on the vintage. There are manual cap-punchings, but no attempt to over-extract. Aging is uniquely in used barrels, three to ten years old, and minimal SO2 is used. M. Rateau does not seek or receive a great deal of media attention but his wines speak for themselves...
Jean-Claude Rateau makes lovely Biodynamic wines in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune in his east-facing vineyard of clay/limestone and marne soils. Quite racy and bright even in 2017, the wine shows subtle aromas of lemon, almond, stone, spiced pear and apple. Intense, very mineral palate with pear, citrus and stone flavors and terrific length. The antithesis of fat, oaky Chardonnays, this food friendly wine will accompany everything from oysters and grilled seafoods to roast chicken and mild cheeses. Delicious now or cellar for 5 to 8 years. This is a real Chardonnay of terroir and a great value! David Lillie
Located toward the bottom of the slope beneath Beaune Grèves and adjacent to Les Cents Vignes, Clos des Mariages is a mix of young and very old vines planted in clay and limestone soils. The lovely 2017 Blanc shows high-toned aromas of lime-flower, melon, pear, wet stone and honeysuckle. The palate is light and silky with pear, apple and citrus flavors with chalky minerals and herbal notes in the refreshing finish. Serve with fish in sauce, scallop crudo, Asian foods and mild cheeses. David Lillie
When life gives you lemons (or the worst frost in decades) you make a cuvée from your lieux-dits most devastated by Mother Nature, which is exactly what Jean-Claude Rateau did with the 2016 vintage. Fortunately the resulting Cuvée Ronde is delicious! Strawberry, pomegranate, crushed herbs and beetroot on the nose. On the racy, lithe palate flavors of wild strawberry, red currant, chalk, and raspberry seed, vie for attention with savory notes of thyme, freshly turned soil, and black tea on a lifted, fresh, cool-toned succulent finish. Not a bruiser, but there’s loads of charm, sap, and detail here. Old-fashioned in the best sense and a vibrant expression of 2016. Try this with grilled salmon or roasted chicken. John McIlwain
Jean-Claude says this wine, sourced from lieux-dits Beaux and Bons on the Pommard side of Beaune, always shows aromas of "cerises noires" (black cherries). There is indeed a beautiful nose of bright red cherry with some eucalyptus and floral notes as well. Fresh acidity and very pretty fruit. Truly an elegant and lean expression, without ripe extracted fruit or any oak notes. Fine tannin and a long finish.
Dark forest and hedge fruits on nose, earthy and brooding with game aromas. Taut and mineral, with a core of pungent soil notes of black tea, cherry pit, spice and stone on a dense mid-weight palate. Tightly wound, energetic, on the attack; savory and dark-fruited on the finish. This is a bit reserved at the moment and benefits from a substantial decant or 5-10 years in the cellar. John McIlwain
From two small parcels in "Aux Eletois" (below Grand Cru Griottes) and "les Epointures" (below 1er Cru Clos Prieur) on the more fine and aromatic side of Gevrey. The midweight palate is lithe, racy, and offers up vibrant flavors of dark fruits, crushed herbs, game, and salty soil notes. Great lifted acidity and core of minerality overlain by an assortment of wild berry fruits. This is another great example of the combination of perfume, pure fruit, and detailed earthiness that is a hallmark of the 2016 vintage. Great tension and verve and a bargain at the price. Wonderful with veau aux champignons. John McIlwain
Generous black cherry, boysenberry, notes of cherry pit and anise on nose. Ripe mid-weight palate, ripe black fruits, hints of iodine and iron and other soil beneath supple structure. Succulent acidity and savory mineral notes offset the ripeness and lend energy and drive on a rich, palate-coating finish. This has good punch, even if it's more generous than I associate with very young Rateau. The purity of fruit and earth notes are finely balanced and this is an excellent Burgundy for the mid-term. A fine pairing with braised chicken thighs with mustard, tarragon, and shallots. A great value from the pioneer of biodynamic Burgundy! John McIlwain