A former History and Geography teacher turned wine maker? It might seem a bit left of field, but this is the real story behind Domaine de Ratapoil. We’re off to the Jura, where Raphael Monnier swapped his classroom days for a life working in the vines.
Raphaël Monnier is originally from Haut-Doubs in the Jura. A transfer led him to setlle in Arc et Senans in the north of Arbois, a lovely town that shares its name with an AOC. Passionate about wine, driving along roads lined with vines to get to school was the lightbulb moment for him: he decided to start making his own wine. Raphaël got hold of some ‘historic’ parcels planted with old grape varieties including Trousseau, Poulsard, Gamay, Gueuche, Petit Baclan, Poulsard and Mézy. In 2009, the beginning of his venture, when he was half between the classroom and the vineyard, he was deliberating over what to call his domain. ‘Ratapoil’ was the one that stuck, a good-humoured idea referring to the local dialect and the fact that he was an amateur wine maker.
The domain now covers 5 hectares of vines in the AOC Arbois across 8 communes. Whilst wine production in the Jura region is 70% white wines, Raphaël is proud to point out that his domain is made up of 70% red. He works on 18 different parcels, helped by Marie Bourdon. This wine maker is not only passionate about vines and wines though, he is equally interested in the environment, which is why the domain has received organic certification from Ecocert. In the vineyard, everything is done as naturally as possible in order to ensure a living soil and healthy plant life. Raphaël retains that wine is made in the vineyard rather than in the winery or the cellar. This means that no pesticides, chemicals, or synthetic products are used, and the grapes are ‘clean’ when they go into the winery. The grapes are harvested by hand. The semi-carbonic vinifications are undertaken in vats or barrels. Only indigenous yeasts are used for fermentation. Sulphur is only added when it’s really necessary, and even then in very minimal quantities. The wines are not fined or filtered.
Domaine Ratapoil produces quite a broad range of wine, including appellation cuvées, vins de France, and the famous ‘Avis de tempête’ that demonstrates once more the innovative spirit of the former teacher. In 2017, the weather conditions were catastrophic for Jura wines: the interprofessional wine committee made a statement that “whilst the growing cycle started well, it slowed to a halt mid-April because of the most intense frost seen since 1991”. July then brough some serious hailstorms, reducing Raphaël’s already diminished harvest to nothing. But this wasn’t going to stop him, so he went about forming a trader house before heading off in his refrigerated van to collect grapes from neighbouring regions, mostly from Savoie. Thanks to this quick thinking, he managed to save the day and keep his clients happy!
The labels themselves are pretty original – a recurring word when describing this domain! The wines express the minerality of their terroir, alongside beautiful fruit and texture. The cuvées are remarkably lively! For two years now, Raphaël has been working full time on his domain, and we certainly look forward to seeing what he does next.