Just in time to mark the beginning of July, we are all set to receive an impressive group of wines from the cool mountains of France. Specifically, we expect new arrivals from Joseph Dorbon and Mickael Crinquand in the Jura and Louis and Béatrice Magnin in the Savoie. It is no secret that we at RWM are in love with the expressive wines we get from the Alps region, which borders France, Italy and Switzerland. We find these wines to be attention-grabbing and a pleasure to drink.
Historically, the small production of these regions and the singular character of these wines left them off the radar of connoisseurs who stuck with the larger and more widely known regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone. It has been uplifting to see the dramatic shift of interest in the wines of the Jura and the Savoie. We are in complete agreement that this surge is warranted, and we also believe there is still room for appreciation to grow. For the most part, the wines from this area represent tremendous value, especially when we compare them to the ever-climbing prices we have witnessed in Burgundy and Bordeaux. Furthermore, these wines deserve to be cellared. They have the potential to mature as well as if not better than the greatest wines of France.
Joseph Dorbon, a recent addition to the RWM portfolio, is one of the more surprising discoveries we have made in recent years. We first visited him just last year through the recommendation of Michel Gahier. His small domaine hidden away in the sleepy village of Vadans, about six miles northwest of Arbois, is the only producer in the village. In all of the years we have been visiting the Jura, trolling wine lists in the region, looking for something new, we do not recall seeing his wines featured anywhere. As well, Michel Gahier seems to be the only vigneron in the area who is familiar with his wines. Working alone on just three hectares of vineyards on a single hillside just a few steps from his home, he astonished us with the range and quality of wines emerging from his small cellar. In the traditional Jura fashion, he ages his wines a long time which, in our opinion, shows the very best of what this region can offer. We are very grateful for the introduction and are fortunate to have access to a multitude of wines from a range of vintages going back fourteen years.
Note: This is only the second shipment we have received from the estate, so we strongly recommend that you explore the world of Dorbon and take advantage of the range of wines that he has offered to us. The quantities are quite small, so availability will be limited.
Trousseau “Vieilles Vignes” Arbois Rouge 2013
Dorbon produces only about 2000 bottles of Trousseau annually, from a small parcel. Fermented and aged in stainless steel to keep the freshness of the Trousseau, it is typically bottled after nine months. The result is a Trousseau which is open and delicious with fresh, tart fruit, underlying notes of dried herbs and a light, tannic backbone. The color is an attractive pale red tinged with a slight orange hue. High-toned and bright, this wine could easily be confused for a red Burgundy from the Hautes Cotes de Beaune. 100 cases imported.
Arbois Rouge Vieilles Vignes “Les Bernardines” 2013
A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Poulsard from a single site of old vines. Aged for a year in stainless steel and a second year in barrel, this is the serious red from the domaine. This 2013 is open and juicy with raspberry and tart-cherry fruit and impressive concentration and structure. It presents more layers than the Trousseau, and a more somber character. While Dorbon feels the Trousseau should be consumed relatively young, he also asserts this wine has a great potential for aging. 41 cases imported.
Arbois Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2013
Aged for two years in small barrels that are not topped off, this is a classic example of Chardonnay from the Jura. Three vintages of this wine (2013, ’10 and ’09) are arriving with this shipment, and the ’13 is the freshest of the three, with a very clean, citrus-leaning nose. It is not especially nutty or wild and shows only a subtle influence of the voile (with only two years of aging, there is less time for the voile to develop). The fruit is impressively compact, and the nose has a slightly bitter orange-peel note and flavors of white flowers and aromatic herbs. This wine leans medicinal and has the expressiveness of an artisanal vermouth. It is a truly pleasurable wine to drink now or lay down for a few years. 41 cases imported.
Arbois Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2010
It is clear from this bottling and the “Cuvee des Moyne” (also arriving in this shipment) that 2010 is a sublime vintage for Dorbon. The 2010 Arbois Chardonnay shows a bit more fruit and texture than the ’13, and has a healthy sweetness in the fruit. The 2010 also shows a greater influence of the voile, with notes of curry spice and hay. There is a nice mineral backbone to this wine that adds grace and composure to the wilder notes. Only 34 cases imported.
Arbois Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes 2009
The 2009 is the most dense of the three vintages of Chardonnay arriving with this shipment. The fruit is golden and sweet, with a bright citrus edge. Underneath it there are hints of black tea and roasted nuts, with refreshing tonic-like acidity in the finish. Only 34 cases imported.
Arbois Blanc Vieilles Vignes “Cuvée des Moyne” 2010
We were elated to hear that Joseph had an additional reserve of the 2010 available for us to purchase. This is the principal white cuvee of the domaine, a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Savagnin that are co-fermented and aged together sous voile for thirty months in small barrels. The nose is clean and bright, with subtle hints of nuts and dried herbs. The fruit leans toward poached pear and orange peel, with an unbelievably fine, silky texture. Only 41 cases available.
Arbois Savagnin 2009
This cuvee is aged for six years sous voile before being bottled (just three months short of the minimum requirement to be a Vin Jaune). It is incredibly concentrated and loaded with aromas of dried hay and roasted nuts, and it would not be an egregious error to mistake this wine for a Vin Jaune. Beyond the wild, earthy aromas is an elegant interplay of minerality and pure, concentrated fruit that gives this wine incredible length and grace. The combination of power, wildness, and elegance, makes this a wine that could only be a Savagnin from the Jura. 17 cases imported.
Arbois Vin Jaune 2003 [6/cs]
As you may have gathered by the previous wine’s description, Dorbon believes in aging his Vin Jaune much longer than the minimum requirement. While many are releasing their 2009s he is about six years behind the norm, aging his Vin Jaune for nine years sous voile before being bottled, and then giving it some time to rest in the bottle before it is released. 2003 is a marvelous vintage for Vin Jaune, and this one is overwhelmingly massive and complex: a tour de force. On first inspection, aromas of toasted walnuts, sweet curry, and straw jump out of the glass. The fruit is warm and sweet, with a distinct butterscotch note. The texture is very dense, and a nerve of briny seasoning gives it a bone-dry finish. Only 48 cases imported.
Arbois Macvin 2011
A classic Macvin made with 100% Chardonnay. Dorbon typically makes three to four barrels a year, selecting one for long aging and bottling the remaining barrels for this cuvee. There is a great deal of freshness in this Macvin, as well as a bright floral nose with notes of chamomile, white flowers and honey. Not excessively sweet, this Macvin has a beautiful medicinal quality that makes it the perfect end to any meal. 34 cases imported.
Arbois Macvin “Hors d’Age” 2005
Each year Dorbon reserves one barrel of Macvin for long aging. The 2005 was aged in his Macvin cellar for twelve years before being bottled. This wine is much more serious than his regular Macvin, showing dark toffee notes and candied orange rind. There is nothing quite like this unique and transcendental Macvin; I put this concentrated and powerful wine in the same company as the Barolo Chinato from Cappellano, another one of the singular artifacts with which we work. With only one barrel made, there is not much to go around. Only 10 cases imported.
Working 5.5 hectares in the small village of Pupillin, the young and affable Mickael Crinquand has quickly become for us a trusted and reliable source of great red and white wines from the Jura. His wines lack pretense and are a testament to the profound terroir and traditions of the Jura. The wines speak for themselves and show a confidence and complexity that is surprising. The vineyards have been worked organically since the 1980s, and the family continues to vinify the wines in a traditional manner. The cellar is as about as ambient as they come, filled with older large and small barrels dusted with the mold that contributes to the production of these fascinating wines. Like many growers in the region, Mickael sells a large portion of his production to private clients. We are fortunate to receive a small allocation of his wines each year.
Arbois-Pupillin Poulsard 2015
The village of Pupillin is known as the greatest terroir for the quirky Poulsard grape. Typical of Poulsard, it has a very light color with a tint of rust. The fruit in the 2015 is healthy with notes of fresh strawberries and dried herbs. It is clean and vibrant, not heavy at all on the palate, with nice zippy acidity. It is the perfect red for those looking for a light wine, while a more complex alternative to rosé. 150 cases imported.
Arbois-Pupillin Trousseau 2015
Compared to the serious Trousseau we get from nearby Montigny Les Arsures, this grape does not have quite the grip and depth when grown in Pupillin. Even so, this is a delightful wine: fresh and fruity, with a distinct high-toned orange-rind note and a zippy minerality. The fruit in the 2015 is ripe but also lively and mineral on the palate, with a refreshingly tonic character that gives this wine an airy quality. Only 50 cases imported.
Arbois-Pupillin Chardonnay 2014
This wine is aged for two years in large barrels that are not topped off, but typically does not show an intense voile character. Mikael claims that it takes two years for the voile to form, which explains the wine’s cleaner aromatics. Though the wine is basically left alone with no intervention, it is a wonder that it drinks so clean and pure. The 2014 is perhaps the most elegant and complete Chardonnay we have seen yet from Crinquand. It is a very pretty wine, showing only a slight suggestion of oxidation on the nose that is overwhelmed by pear and citrus fruit. The ’14 is remarkably elegant, with a savory mineral flavor of flint and salt water. This wine shows an admirable restraint and concentration in the fruit as well as a rich, silky character that makes it a pleasure to drink. Only 100 cases imported.
Domaine Louis Magnin
Working eight hectares on the incredibly steep slopes above the village of Arbin, Louis and Béatrice Magnin make some of the ultimate red and white wines in the Savoie. Regrettably, there is a general lack of knowledge about wines of this small region. It can be difficult to find examples of Mondeuse and Chignin Bergeron when shopping for wines, and often the examples that exist are underwhelming. Historically, the wines here have been made in a conservative fashion, valuing output over quality. It is not until recently that a group of vigneron have made an effort to show the great potential of various terroirs and cepages of the Savoie.
The Magnins have been at the forefront of this movement toward quality for many years now. They are working their excellently situated vineyards of old vines biodynamically. They also do a longer elevage of their wines than is typical in the region and are determined to produce wines with the ability to age beautifully over time. On our last visit, we were particularly smitten with their newest releases and encourage you to consider their potential.
Chignin Bergeron 2013
The Chignin Bergeron is made with 100% Roussanne from several parcels in the commune of Montmélian. Vinified and aged in stainless steel tanks, it is aged on the fine lees until bottling. 2013 was a bit cold and difficult in the Savoie, with mildew problems severely lowering the yields. Conditions improved during the second half of the season to insure a quality harvest for the remaining grapes. We found 2013 to be a beautiful vintage for this wine. It has a more vibrant character than previous vintages, showing off the minerality derived from their limestone vineyards. The fruit is crisp, with a green-apple and fresh-peach character that is both sweet and slightly bitter. There is a nice salinity to the fruit that gives this wine an elegant spine. 50 cases imported.
Chignin Bergeron “Grand Orgue” 2012
The grapes for the “Grand Orgue” are picked with ultimate maturity in mind and this wine is made from a selection of their best parcels. Like the regular Chignin Bergeron, it is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, although the elevage can be a bit longer (eighteen months). While the “Grand Orgue” typically has a more rich and fruity character, the strength of the 2012 vintage also sets it apart. It is excellent drinking at this point: very open and generous with sweetly sparkling aromatics and a hint of truffle. The fruit is quite concentrated, showing an oily, rich texture that evolves into a slightly tannic and mineral finish. This Roussanne from Magnin is distinct from its cousin in the northern Rhône as it shows more verve and a more profound mineral character. 25 cases imported.
Arbin Mondeuse 2013
Over half of the Magnin domaine (rougly 4.5 hectares) is dedicated to the cultivation of the fascinating varietal Mondeuse. The village of Arbin is regarded as the best terroir for this expressive grape, and these reds are the specialty of the house. Their regular cuvée of Mondeuse is made from various parcels that average 35 years of age. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel for one year before being bottled. A standout from our tasting with the Magnins, the 2013 Mondeuse has a beautiful freshness and liveliness that we found irresistible. The fruit leans toward fresh cherry and has wild notes of dried herbs and mountain flowers. Only 50 cases available.
Arbin Mondeuse “La Rouge” 2012
The “La Rouge” is made from 60-year-old Mondeuse vines planted in red clay soils. This wine undergoes a longer maceration than the basic Mondeuse (roughly fifteen days) and is aged in large tronconique barrels for one year. Open and juicy, “La Rouge” is the most flattering of the trio of Mondeuse arriving with this shipment. The nose is pointed with a refreshing cherry fruit. It is open on the palate, and there is a slightly bitter stone-fruit note and a lively, fresh acidity. Juicy and satisfying, a wine of substantial structure. Only 25 cases imported
Arbin Mondeuse “Tout un Monde” 2012
“Tout un Monde” is made from an 80 year old vine parcel that was planted by Louis’s grandfather. After a long cuvaison and fermentation in stainless steel, this wine is aged in demi-muids for eighteen months, resulting in a dense and rich wine that has slightly medicinal, black-cherry fruit with a touch of a sour edge. In tasting this wine, the somewhat wild and structured character reminds one of the Bocas from Conti or a bigger vintage of Chianti from Podere Le Boncie. Like these examples, the “Tout un Monde”. Is unique, a tour de force that shows the heights to which Mondeuse can rise. Only 25 cases imported.