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We're happy that Burgundy lovers in the US are discovering the beautiful wines of Jean-Claude Rateau in Beaune. Rateau is enormously respected in France and was a great influence on the new wave of Biodynamic producers such as Etienne de Montille, Dominique Lafon, Anne-Claude Leflaive, Michel Lafarge and Pierre Morey. The wines are old-fashioned in their relative lightness and in their beautiful expressions of terroir, free of excess extraction or new oak. A small new shipment has arrived, just in time for the holidays!
The estate was created in 1979 with a few family parcels, always in biodynamic agriculture, and now cultivates 10 hectares in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune, Beaune and Gevrey-Chambertin. Only a light and superficial plowing is done in summer, respecting wild plants and keeping hedges and fruit trees along the vines. Minimal fertilizers are used, always organic composts, as well as biodynamic preparations. Replantings are by massale selection, seeking a great diversity in the parcels, often with co-planted varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc in La Grande Chatelaine. Fermentations are with wild yeasts, of course, with the goal of making wines with no additives, with minimal added SO2.
The 2018 Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune and Beaune single-vineyard wines in today's email are simply delicious for current drinking, showing the lush fruit of the vintage, balanced with bright acidity - they will be superb at your holiday dinners. The lovely 2017 Beaune 1er Cru "Bressandes" and Gevrey-Chambertin are also delicious to drink young, possessing superb fruit but less tannin than the 2016s, and both will cellar well for fifteen years. Jean-Claude Rateau is one of the great pioneers of Biodynamic viticulture in France and his natural vinifications produce outstanding old-fashioned Burgundies of terroir - they are highly recommended! Quanities available are small, so don't delay... David Lillie
About a kilometer or two northwest of the Beaune 1er Crus, La Grande Chatelaine is a cooler site with soils comprised of clay over limestone. Stone fruit and pear skin, white flowers and wet stone on the nose. Bright and fresh aromatically. The mid-weight palate is racy (especially given the vintage) and rainwater fresh with orchard fruit and lemon oil flavors, dancing astride sapid herbal notes with a clinging stoniness on the long, mouthwatering, expansive finish. Delicious with mezze maniche and sautéed fresh white corn, spring onions and grape tomatoes. And I can see this pairing beautifully with grilled sea bass or pan-roasted scallops. This is lovely vibrant Chardonnay with a sense of place and worthy of a look, though I’d drink in the mid-term while the fruit is singing, say until 2025. John McIlwain
Beaune 1er Cru "Les Coucherias" is high on the slope on the site of an old quarry and much of the sub-soil is limestone tailings, permitting root penetration and drainage, with a topsoil of mixed clay and limestone "marnes blanches." In biodynamic agriculture since 1979, the vineyard is a south-facing semi-circle—a very warm spot. The 2017 has a pale green gold robe. The nose offers an array of stone fruit and citrus peel aromas with a hint of mineral spice. The mid-weight, punchy palate shows a melange of stone fruit and green apple flavors with a pungent sense of minerality driving the long, concentrated finish. There's plenty going on here with ripe fruit and floral overtones vying with an overt stoniness for attention. Just cracking with a wild mushroom risotto, and a natural match for chicken, roasted cod, or even blanquette de veau. Give a quick decant now or better still in 2-3 years and beyond. John McIlwain
Jean-Claude says this wine, sourced from lieux-dits Beaux Fougets (clay soils) and Bons Feuvres (iron-rich soils) on the Pommard side of Beaune, always shows aromas of "cerises noires" (black cherries). The 2018 has a dark ruby, verging on purple robe. The ripe, lush nose offers plummy dark fruit aromas with notes of violet, cassis, and spice box. The palate also tends towards black fruits (there's that black cherry!), savory herbal notes, and a brooding earthiness beneath the ripe, exuberant fruit. There’s a lot to sort out here, but this has nice flair and concentration - give this a bit of aeration and it will be a very satisfying bottle with coq au vin or perhaps braised duck legs. John McIlwain
Jean-Claude Rateau has a large parcel in the 1er Cru Les Bressandes on a steep slope facing east with pebbly clay/limestone soils*, conducted in biodynamic farming since 1979. The soil is warm and well-drained giving ripe, structured wines. There is a 21-day cuvaison with manual cap-punching followed by 18 months in old barrels.Even with the minimal extraction practiced at the estate, the 2017 Bressandes shows a dense red/black color and aromas of black cherry and ripe strawberry, quite deep with sous-bois, violet, graphite and citrus. The palate is dense and chalky with blackberry, earth, cocoa and minerals with terrific length of red currant, earth and juicy acidity. This is a beautiful wine that will give great pleasure in its youth - it's a bit softer than the 2016 - and should be a superb mature wine as well, perhaps until 2035 and beyond. David Lillie *("A formation rare in Burgundy 'la grèze lithée.' An ancient limestone cliff dominated the slope in the distant past, which eroded leaving debris of small pepples which covered the slope at this spot from top to bottom - leaving a steep slope facing east with a soil rich in pepples, deep, warm and dry, where the vines roots penetrate deeply."
Permitted in Burgundy, but rarely seen on its own, Pinot Blanc grown by Jean-Claude Rateau in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune makes this lovely and versatile wine. The aromas are ripe and pretty, with apple and pear, lemon zest, almond and herbal notes. The palate is silky and pure with white fruits and hints of anise and verbena, supple, round and well balanced with firm acidity. This is a perfect apéritif wine, and will accompany any fish or chicken dish, Asian foods and mild cheeses. David Lillie
The Rateau Aligoté is from Jean-Claude's Biodynamic vineyard in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune and shows a pretty pale-gold color and aromas of almond, pear and stone - the palate is vibrant, dry and mineral, making this the base of a perfect Kir and a great match for oysters and any mild-flavored fish or chicken dish.
From a small parcel of 50 year-old vines in AOC Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune, certified Biodynamic, "lyre ouverte" pruning. The wine shows a bright medium red/garnet color and very floral aromas of berry fruits - crushed raspberry and strawberry, quite pretty and a bit riper than usual in 2018, with a bit of orange peel and spice. The palate is bright, and light to medium-bodied with sappy tart cherry and strawberry fruit, finishing with juicy acidity and minerals. The wine is quite elegant and refreshing at 12% alcohol - it's a perfect Pinot for holiday dinners with family and friends. Enjoy! David Lillie
Jean-Claude Rateau's domain has been Biodynamic since 1979 and produces lovely light-bodied, old fashioned Burgundies. The 2018 Beaune Les Prévoles (a lieu-dit below 1er Cru Chouacheux and les Tuvilains) was vinified with the stems, bringing just the right structure to this lush and beautiful wine which shows beautiful ripe aromas of cherry and black raspberry with rose, earth, citrus and brown spice. The palate is chalky and sapid, showing the ripeness of the 2018s, with lush berry fruits enveloping firm acidity and mineral flavors. Really a lovely wine and quite delicous now, full and ripe enough for grilled meats, as well as chicken and pork dishes and cheeses such as morbier, tomme de savoie. This should benefit from a bit of aging but is quite beautiful as a young wine, drink until 2035. David Lillie
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 (June 4, 2019) - What a difference a few months make. This Bressandes has uncoiled to reveal pure wild raspberry and red currant flavors, the nose has become more expressive, exhibiting more floral plum and spice notes. There's a quite a bit more charm here while the underlying balance remains impeccable. Tasted recently alongside another dozen Beaune 1ers, this showed exceptionally well. 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. Ruby robe. The nose offers an intriguing contrast between floral aromas and gamy, sauvage notes. For every rose petal, there’s a contrasting earth tone. The tension is compelling. On the palate ripe cherry and raspberry flavors are underlain by a pungent stoniness on a mid-weight, faintly tannic, but fresh, finish. This is delicious, if brambly, now but should gain in suavity with time in the bottle. I’d choose to pair this with something autumnal and savory. Pigéon? Pintade? Daube? John McIlwain