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…
… 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.
A journalist asked us to send Joseph Dorbon a question about understanding the balance of a wine aged sous-voile, and he penned a rather insightful response, which is noted below in both French and English (Translation: Dillon Lerach): Responding to your question about oxidation, I will first assume that you are only speaking about whites. […]