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Jean-Claude Rateau

Jean-Claude Rateau

VigneronJean-Claude Rateau
LocationBeaune (Côte-d'Or)
Size of Domaine8.5 ha
TerroirContinental climate. Clay-limestone, gravel and alluvial sediments on mid-Jurassic (Callovian and Oxfordian) limestone bedrock. Various aspects. 230-280m altitude.
ViticultureCertified biodynamic (Ecocert)
View Jean-Claude Rateau wines ↓

Having been introduced to biodynamics during a stage with Xavier Morin, an agronomist and early pioneer in the field, Jean-Claude Rateau became the first vigneron in Burgundy and the fourth in the whole of France to adopt these principles when taking over 1.5 ha of family vines in 1979. As one can imagine, resources on the subject were scarce at the time so a few producers (including Emmanuel Giboulot and Dominique Derain) pulled together to share their experience and learn from one another.

In the early eighties, they met soil expert and microbiologist Claude Bourguignon (his first profile of a living soil was done in one of Jean-Claude’s vineyards) who helped them with the elaboration of their compost among others. They were also part of the creation of the ‘Groupement d’Etude et de Suivi des Terroirs’ in 1995 - the GEST is formed of more than 100 producers, mostly Burgundians, whose mission is to research to better understand the functioning of the soil and how to manage it sustainably.

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Nowadays, aided by a team of three who are involved at every stage, JC farms about 20 parcels in and around Beaune - where most vineyards are owned by the négoce, a fact that possibly explains why Beaune is not as renowned as the quality of its vineyards indicates that it should be. JC has a high proportion of old vines on each terroir (many of them over 100yo) which he replaces favouring sélection massale to preserve biodiversity and reproduce the rare quality of these ancient pinot fins. As regards to viticulture he adapts his fastidious biodynamic methods to the specificity of each climat in each vintage, observing and almost connecting with his vines, he helps them find their natural balance so that they can defend themselves against potential diseases.

In the cellar, he aims to do as little as possible while making sure everything goes as it should. For the reds, the cuvaison varies from 15 to 20 days, with pigeage by hand or by foot, before an 11 to 20 months élevage on fine lees in 3 to 10yo 228ltr barrels. Jean-Claude is very sensitive to the colour and brilliance of his wines, two intrinsic qualities of both chardonnay and pinot noir according to him, so he carries out a very gentle filtration prior to bottling. He also likes to experiment with small batches, be it a late harvest or ageing under flor, to deepen his understanding of the various terroirs he works with.

Jean-Claude’s wines have such clarity, they are some of the most subtle and nuanced burgundies we’ve had the chance to drink over the years. The extraction is always pitch-perfect, and given that he never chaptalizes, his wines rarely reach above 12.5% alcohol, an extremely rare feat in Burgundy nowadays. A true pioneer in the world of biodynamics, and a very fine vigneron with a big heart.

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Jean-Claude Rateau Wines

Jean-Claude Rateau

HAUTES-CÔTES DE BEAUNE 2017
100% Pinot Blanc (12.5% alc.)

A real rarity here where 27yo pinot blanc vines give a ripe, citron, floral but very finely chiselled example of the variety with a hint of green tea. Vinified and aged in older barrels for six months.

Jean-Claude Rateau

BEAUNE 1ER CRU 2012
Les Coucherias
100% Chardonnay (13% alc.)

The vineyard, once a quarry that supplied stone for Les Hospices de Beaune, is completely protected on all sides, and tilts slightly south, with a subsoil of quarry debris. The roots grow deep and bring a coolness and minerality to the warm fruit. A rich, complex and layered wine of lovely balance.

Jean-Claude Rateau

BEAUNE 2016
Cuvée Ronde
100% Pinot Noir (12% alc.)

2016 unfortunately provided the worst frost in decades and given a micro production in all his holdings of lower lying Beaune vineyards, Jean-Claude blended all three of them into one wine of which he made five barrels. Fortunately, the resulting Cuvée Ronde is delicious, with sappy wild strawberry and red berry fruits and a lifted, fresh, cool-toned succulent finish. Not a bruiser, but there’s loads of charm and detail here. Old-fashioned in the best sense and a vibrant expression of 2016.

Jean-Claude Rateau

BEAUNE 2017
Les Beaux et Bons
100% Pinot Noir (12.5% alc.)

Jean-Claude’s Les Beaux et Bons comes from two tiny vineyards running into each other – Les Bons Feuvres where there is an iron-rich soil and Les Beaux Fougets with fine clay soil. The 25yo vines planted at 10,000 vines/ha give a very elegant wine (destalked 80%), with a soaring perfume, mineral backbone and fine-grained tannins. For drinking now to 2025.

Jean-Claude Rateau

BEAUNE 1ER CRU 2014
Les Reversées
100% Pinot Noir (12.5% alc.)

Les Reversées is a wine from a parcel of 25 to 100yo vines planted in a soil of brown limestone with quite a lot of clay on a gentle east facing slope. It has a very pretty, extremely pale colour, and shows a touch of pepper and liquorice on the nose. On the palate its class is immediately apparent, it has a silky mouthfeel, and the spicy raspberry fruit has good weight and energy and feels detailed and very harmonious.

Jean-Claude Rateau

BEAUNE 1ER CRU 2013
Les Bressandes
100% Pinot Noir (13% alc.)

From a steep, due east facing slope that easily ripens the pinot noir and gives structure and depth as well as elegance, Rateau’s Les Bressandes is from a 1ha parcel of young and 50yo vines. More substantial than Les Reversées, the lovely weight of red fruit and spices is no less elegant and finishes very long.