Joseph Dorbon initiated his work as “vigneron” in 1996. He works three hectares of vineyards situated in his village of Vadans, six kilometers north of Arbois and across the Route Nationale from the fabled town of Montigny-les-Arsures. The vines are hillside plantings, southeast facing, at approximately 1,000 feet of altitude (322 meters). Dorbon works his vineyards following the best ecological practices and is now recognized as on the path to organic classification (“en conversion biologique”). The soil is worked, turned effectively twice a year, the second time in June with the aid of a horse. Vegetation is essentially left in between the vineyard rows with the weeding done only underneath and immediately around the individual vines.
The vineyards are planted to a mix of Trousseau, Ploussard and Pinot Noir for the reds (30%) and Chardonnay and Savagnin (70% for the whites). All grapes are hand harvested.
The reds are each vinified separately after being destemmed. The alcoholic fermentation and cuvaison usually lasts for 15 days or so. Both the Ploussard and Trousseau are aged for one year in stainless steel while the Pinot Noir rests in 225 liter barrels for an eighteen-month period.
The whites are all pressed as “grappes entieres”. The juice destined for the Crémant goes into stainless until it is prepared for the second fermentation; the Chardonnay for the still wines is fermented in 225 liter barrels and is left in the barrel to age for twenty-four months before bottling. During the elevage, the white wine is never racked and the wines are raised “sous voile”. The still white wines are the product of grapes harvested exclusively from old vines that are at least 40 years of age.
|Arbois Rouge – Ploussard Vieilles Vignes:an earthy but vibrant red with the classic faded rose color of this intriguing grape; from old vines, it offers seductive red cherry fruit which overlays a hint of the “sous bois”. Fermented with native yeast, aged in stainless steel for one year and bottled unfiltered.|
|Arbois Trousseau Trousseau reigns supreme in Montigny-les-Arsures, the home village of Michel Gahier and Jacques Puffeney, where it produces wines of power and structure from the village’s grey-marl soils; by contrast, Vadans’ yellow-marl soils produce a more easygoing version of the variety, and Dorbon thusly treats it more breezily in the cellar than he does his Ploussard, aging it in stainless steel for just one year and applying no sulfur whatsoever. With its clean, ringing black-cherry fruit and its varietally true spice character, Joseph’s 2018 Trousseau dazzles with its purity and drive, with only a wisp of tannins tying the package together.|
|Arbois Rouge “Les Bernardines – Vieilles Vignes”:produced from a mix of Ploussard (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) which are co-fermented. The wine is then aged in stainless steel for one year and one year in 225 liter barrels. A single vineyard wine, the Bernardines site is within the confines of the village of Vadans.|
|Arbois Blanc Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes:aged sous voile for 24 months in small barrels ; a powerful, intensely aromatic wine with depth and the classic nuttiness found in the whites of Arbois; again from old vines (40 years plus).|
|Arbois Blanc “Cuvée des Moyne”:the “special” cuvée of the domaine, it is a blend of Chardonnay (80%) and Savagnin (20%) with both being co-fermented; the wine spends 30 months sous voile; another old vines bottling, in this case a blend of grapes of 40 to 70 years of age.|
|Arbois Blanc – Savagnin:a pure Savagnin prepared as if it were to be Vin Jaune; aged in 225 liter barrels “under the veil”.|
|Macvin “Hors d’Age”: made exclusively from old vines Chardonnay; Far and away the best Macvin we have ever tasted; aged 10 years in a single barrel; a sweet caramelized nose yet fresh and round on the palate. Great acidity.|
Joseph Dorbon’s setup is simple: three hectares of organically tended vines on prime south-facing slopes above his home village of Vadans; a horse to help him plow; and a subterranean 16th-century cellar in which his soulful wines slowly take shape. We met Joseph through Michel Gahier, and indeed the two men share a certain combination of dyed-in-the-wool Jurassien spirit and boundary-pushing thoughtfulness. Vadans, a sleepy little village even for the Jura, contains soils of yellow marl, which tend to produce reds of great finesse and whites of chiseled complexity, and Dorbon’s wines follow suit; yet, like the greatest wines in the region, they are both deeply evocative of place and distinctly Joseph’s own. He works his land without chemicals, plows by horse—a difficult and little-encountered practice which he learned from his uncle—and harvests by hand. His cellar practices are minimal and steeped in Jura tradition: spontaneous fermentations without temperature regulation; aging sous-voile for his white wines; minimal (and sometimes no) additions of sulfur; and bottling of the white wines only after significant time in cask. Joseph’s evocative wines have garnered deserved attention since we first began our partnership six years ago, and their preciousness grows as he approaches retirement within the next few years.
2017 Arbois Rouge “Les Bernardines – Vieilles Vignes”
“Les Bernardines” is a vineyard in Vadans named after the Bernardine order of Cistercian monks who stewarded the land during the Middle Ages, and Joseph owns Poulsard and Pinot Noir vines within its confines. This cuvée, comprising around 80% Poulsard and 20% Pinot Noir, is co-fermented in stainless steel without temperature stabilization, and aged two full years in old Burgundy barrels. Fresh and lithe, “Les Bernardines” leads with Poulsard’s sappy red-cherry fruit, with the Pinot Noir contributing a certain suaveness of texture. The palate sees an extra boost of concentration from the 60+ year old vines, and the wine combines gentle structure with vivacious drinkability in harmonious fashion.
2019 Arbois Trousseau
Trousseau reigns supreme in Montigny-les-Arsures, the home village of Michel Gahier and Jacques Puffeney, where it produces wines of power and structure from the village’s grey-marl soils; by contrast, Vadans’ yellow-marl soils produce a more easygoing version of the variety, and Dorbon thusly treats it more breezily in the cellar than he does his Poulsard, aging it in stainless steel for just one year and adding no sulfur at all. With its clean, ringing black-cherry fruit and its varietally true spice character, Joseph’s Trousseau dazzles with its purity and drive, with only a wisp of tannins evident on the refreshing finish.
2016 Arbois Blanc “Cuvée des Moyne – Vieilles Vignes”
“Cuvée des Moyne”—moyne being the Middle French spelling of moine, or “monk”—comprises 80% Chardonnay and 20% Savagnin from vines between 40 and 70 years of age in Vadans. The varieties are interplanted, and Joseph harvests and ferments them together, aging them for three years in neutral 228-liter Burgundy casks with no topping up. This wine illustrates clearly how veil-derived characteristics—marzipan, curry, green walnuts—can coexist comfortably alongside fresh-fruit elements and vigorous acidity in a well-crafted sous-voile white wine. “Cuvée des Moyne” is downright chiseled in its minerality, with bright, direct yellow fruits framed by, rather than overwhelmed by, the saline thrust of the veil.
2010 Arbois Savagnin
Joseph purposely bottles very little of his Savagnin as Vin Jaune, and his “basic” Savagnin spends longer in barrel than is required of an actual Vin Jaune by law—in the case of this 2010, seven full years sous-voile. The resulting wine, though deeply marked by the mysterious and wildly complex aromatic and flavor spectrum of the veil, remains fresh and vinous, with stunning acidity and a saliva-prompting, bone-dry finish of incredible length.
2009 Arbois Vin Jaune
According to appellation restrictions, Vin Jaune must spend a full five years in barrel sous-voile, and it may not be released until six years and three months after the harvest; Dorbon doubles the formula, giving the rare barrels he deems worthy of being bottled as Vin Jaune a full decade in cask. The result is an oceanic wine of Herculean power, with raging acidity wed to luscious, salt-caked yellow fruits, and given additional complexity by a raw-almond character that stops short of overt oxidation. This makes most Vin Jaune taste tame by comparison, but it nonetheless retains a stunning sense of equilibrium and fine-grained minerality.
Joseph Dorbon’s setup is simple: three hectares of organically tended vines on prime south-facing slopes above his home village of Vadans; a horse to help him plow; and a subterranean 16th-century cellar in which his soulful wines slowly take shape. We met Joseph through Michel Gahier, and indeed the two men share a certain combination of…
… A hunched figure, barely visible in the twilight, barred the great subterranean cellar’s modest entrance. Ragged and weary from their journey, the five sommeliers looked at one another with surprise; the old book had mentioned nothing of a gatekeeper. They had followed the map with great care, the promise of long-buried vinous spoils, theirs for the taking, having sustained them through the endless Krug-less days—but it seemed a final challenge awaited. The sentinel scowled at them from beneath his large hood.