Romaric Petitjean at Domaine Petitjean, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.

omaric Petitjean prefers his Saint-Bris on the ripe side. At harvest time he will wait for as long as possible in order to obtain the result he wants.

– I like it when you have a good maturity to balance the Saint-Bris character, the blackcurrant leaves and the slightly vegetal touch. I am looking for a wine which is more sophisticated, he says.

You’ll find the cellars of Domaine Petitjean right in the middle of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, a 20-minute drive southwest of Chablis. The Saint-Bris appellation which surrounds the village is one of Burgundy’s exceptions. There is no chardonnay here, a Saint-Bris wine is made from 100 per cent sauvignon grapes.

Domaine Petitjean, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.– In terms of taste the sauvignon is very explosive, Romaric Petitjean continues. When you taste the wine there is immediately a lot on the palate, but not much length if you don’t have enough maturity. I try to bring out a bit more finesse, because I think the sauvignon lacks a bit of elegance.

Romaric Petitjean arrived at the domaine in 1999. His brother Mathias followed a decade later. Together they are the fourth generation here. In addition to their father’s vineyards they also took on the ones of their aunt.

– We started out with twelve hectares. Today we have 21 hectares. We make all the wines here in the centre of village and we have reached a point where there simply isn’t room for any more.

Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre, Les Boisseaux – Domaine Petitjean.All the vineyards of Domaine Petitjean are on the slopes and plateaux surrounding the village. The Saint-Bris appellation shares the area with the regional appellations Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre and Bourgogne Aligoté. The cooler slopes are usually occupied by the sauvignon vines, where the conditions are ideal for them. The remaining slopes are left for the traditional varieties – chardonnay, pinot noir and aligoté.

– I have five hectares of Saint-Bris. There is a large block opposite the village, which is roughly half of the surface area. Then there is another large block on the plateau, where the soil is more stony. That one is one hectare and a half.

For some years Romaric Petitjean adopted his parents way of working. A good way to avoid conflicts, he points out with a smile. He then slowly began changing things to what he preferred. The cuverie was modernised and vineyards were replanted.

Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.– All that was put in place 20 years ago, he says. Since then everything has evolved into what it is today. Now I bring in outside advice. I work with an oenologue, which I think is a very good thing. My parents rarely tasted the wines together. My father knew his job, but he would only taste every now and then. In the beginning that was how I worked as well. Nowadays my oenologue comes in on a monthly basis and we taste together.

The Saint-Bris appellation has 160 hectares under vines (2018 figures). Most of it is in the commune of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, with small parts spilling over into Chitry, Irancy, Quenne and Vincelottes. Both sauvignon blanc and sauvignon gris are permitted, but the former has been the main variety for a long time. In comparison the sauvignon gris is less aromatic than its sauvignon blanc sibling. In recent years more and more growers have re-discovered the neglected sauvignon gris and today there are quite a few making 100 per cent sauvignon gris cuvées. Romaric Petitjean is one of them.

Romaric Petitjean at Domaine Petitjean, Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.– We found some sauvignon gris among our old vines. When my brother and I tasted the grapes we felt it would be a good idea to make a small cuvée out of it. 2017 was the first vintage. It’s 50 per cent barrels and 50 per cent tank.

Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.Domaine Petitjean produces Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre in both red and white, 100 per cent pinot noir and chardonnay respectively.

– The white cuvée is called Terre Blanche, explains Romaric Petitjean. As the name suggests the soil is white. It is along the road to Bailly, southwest from here. Just before you descend to Bailly. It’s not the name of the parcel, but I thought Terre Blanche was appropriate. Like all our wines it’s indigenous yeast. It’s 50-50 barrels and tank, a little bit depending on the vintage. I like the richness of the chardonnay combined with a bit of minerality.

Saint-Bris-le-Vineux, Burgundy.Since this is Saint-Bris-le-Vineux the main part of the production is white. Three quarters at Domaine Petitjean is white, one quarter is red. There are two reds at the domaine, both Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre.

– Here in Yonne the pinot noir is very much about fruit. For the standard cuvée Bourgogne Côtes d’Auxerre I work very much with cold maceration. I harvest early in the morning and then let it stay cool for four days in concrete tanks. I prefer my pinot noir to have the red fruit character, cherries.

For the pinot noir vines the vineyards face straight south. Whereas the main cuvée is a blend of several parcels, Les Boisseaux is a single vineyard cuvée.

– Les Boisseaux is a lieu-dit in Augy (the village just northwest of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux), says Romaric Petitjean. It’s all old vines there. Not sure exactly when they were planted, but around 50 years ago. The soil is clay and limestone. We have had this cuvée since 1999. Élevage is in barrels during twelve months.

© 2023 Ola Bergman