Beautiful, Affordable Burgundies from Jean-Claude Rateau and Jane et Sylvain!

8/16/15 -


(Jean-Claude Rateau in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune -- Photos by Eben Lillie)

New shipments of beautiful, old-fashioned Burgundies have just arrived from Jean-Claude Rateau in Beaune, and Jane et Sylvain in Gevrey-Chambertin. These two estates practice organic or biodynamic farming, ferment with wild yeasts and age their wines in minimal or zero new oak thus preserving the aromatic complexity and saline mineral flavors that are the essence of terroir expression in Burgundy.

Rateau showing the 20cm difference between his soils in Bressandes and an eroded neighboring vineyard treated with chemicals.

Jean-Cluade Rateau was the fourth vigneron in France to convert to biodynamics, beginning with two hectares in 1979, learning from Yves Herody and working with Claude Bourguignon to analyse his soils. 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, with a purity and mineral character seldom seem in "modern" Burgundy.

Rateau's passion for his vineyards and his wines was evident in a recent visit to the domaine, where he provided a tour of his parcels and a tasting in the cellar. He described differences in micro-climate and soil type at each site, spoke proudly of the health of the vineyards, and very frankly pointed out the benefits of his decades of work in organic and biodynamic agriculture. At each stop, Rateau took the time to dig his hands in the soil, touch the plants, and admire the view, obviously at home among his vines. Back at the cellar, we tasted through a lineup of whites and reds as he meditated on each wine with a mixture of analytical precision and pure admiration. He is very serious and intentional with his winemaking, but there remains a humble respect for nature and the mystery that each year holds. Jean-Claude is obviously a man of the soil and as committed and thoughtful of a winemaker as you'll ever find!



Jane et Sylvain Raphanau (their estate is simply called "Jane et Sylvain") produce tiny quantities of lovely terroir-expressive wines on their four hectares in and around Gevrey, certified organic since 2003. Their finest parcel is uniquely situated at the top southwest corner of 1er Cru Fontenys, separated only by a dirt track from Ruchottes - it's a great site producing a great Burgundy needing eight to ten years to reach maturity. Their 'village' Gevrey is particularly beautiful in 2011 and also a favorite is their lovely Bourgogne Passetoutgrain – in 2013 it's 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Gamay and 100% delicious. We were very happy to find Jane et Sylvain, who seem to belong more in Touraine than Gevrey-Chambertin – they're wonderful people, making honest Burgundies that deserve your attention!

Based in Beaune, Domaine Albert Morot produces wines from ten appellations from it's 8 hectares. The estate has made huge progress since agronomist Geoffroy Choppin, nephew of owner Francoise Choppin, took over direction of the vineyards in 2000, with organic conversion beginning in 2008 and full certification with the 2015 vintage. Hand harvesting, of course, and vinifications with wild yeasts followed by 13 months aging in their very cold cellar, with malos happening usually the following summer, with no racking. At our tasting with Geoffroy (and Boumba) we found the 2016s to be very elegant, classic Burgundies with a bit more weight and fruit that the Rateau wines

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