20 July 2011

going to miss you: jean-marie berrux's 2009 "le petit têtu"

The remorse one feels upon hearing that a favored bottle is out of stock at the caviste, probably never to return, is, when one gets lucky, matched by a corresponding delight upon discovering same bottle still in stock at a different caviste. So it went with Jean-Marie Berrux's "Le Petit Têtu" 2009, a Bourgogne blanc I first picked up on the recommendation of the Cyril* at the Verre Volé cave on rue Oberkampf.

Cyril is not prone to voicing breathless praise of things.** Nevertheless when I inquired about this bottle, his usual stoney-faced tone changed to one of frank admiration as he explained that it was the project of one half of St. Aubin-based natural Burgundy négociant duo Sarnin-Berrux; that it was derived from vines just outside the Puligny-Montrachet appellation; and that it was the last bottle he had in stock, partly because he'd bought and drank so much of it himself.

That was all the convincing I needed. I drank it the next evening with my good friend E, who was shortly to depart for China. Duly stunned by the wine, I let her continue pontificating on some righteous point of philosophical disagreement (our usual routine) while, with a blog post in mind, I took a photo of the bottle, and her, ruefully reflecting on the passing of the vintage.

I knew I'd inevitably see E again, if not in Paris, then in New York or, God I hope not, Boston. But when a vintage ends for a small-production, under-the-radar wine like "Le Petit Têtu," it's usually just over. If you're lucky you might run into the wine on a restaurant wine list at some indeterminate time in the future, but there are various cosmic laws ensuring that on that occasion you will be too broke to purchase it, or on medication, or among teetotaler in-laws. In any case, time will have passed and it will be a different wine, no longer the wine you once knew.

I put very little stock in aging forecasts, but it seems fair to presume the 2009 "Le Petit Têtu" has a decent lifespan ahead of it. It's crisp, coiled Chardonnay, replete with whipcrack acidity and bedrock mineral. Which is to say its a fair ringer for actual Puligny-Montrachet, at a fraction of the price. But, belying its name, which means "little stubborn one," it's dance-in-the-streets delicious right this instant. There's a sea-spray, sea-shelly salinity, and a kind of delicate lime-zest filigree that just slays me.

Ambling around the web the morning after drinking it, I learned it's sourced from clay soil, 35-year-old vines, and sees 10 months in oak, 20% new. I've had some of Sarnin-Berrux's négociant reds before, and always found them well-made, but a little countrified, slightly coarse, as if their admirable commitment towards natural vinification came at the expense of some of the (possibly chaptalised) grace we desire in good Burgundy. They've only been at it since 2007, however; I can only envision things improving.

And, of course, I did in the end find another source for the 2009 "Le Petit Têtu," when I went to meet my visiting Los Angeleno friends K and J at ever-enjoyable 1èr bar-à-vin Le Garde Robe the other day. I hadn't seen K in three years, ever since I left LA, in fact. And I hadn't tasted "Le Petit Têtu" in all of three weeks. We were delighted to reencounter each other.

* There are two Cyrils.

** In fact it took me over a year of routine customership to get more than a glower out of him. By now we've grown on each other, I think.

Le Verre Volé (cave)
38, rue Oberkampf
75011 PARIS
Metro: Oberkampf or Parmentier
Tel: 01 43 14 99 46

Le Garde Robe
41, rue de l'Arbre Sec
75001 PARIS
Metro: Louvre-Rivoli
Tel: 01 49 26 90 60

Related Links:

A tasting with Jean-Luc Poinsot at Le Garde Robe, 75001
A vertical tasting of Château Malescot St. Exupery Margaux at Le Garde Robe, 75001
Enjoying the Poinsot rosé at Le Garde Robe, 75001

A solid profile of Sarnin-Berrux @ Bergman'sBourgogne
A frankly delicious-looking lunch accompanied by Sarnin-Berrux wines at la Cave de l'Insolite @ DuMorgonDansLesVeines


  1. i like boston.

  2. me too! just don't want to find myself back there, for various reasons.