Joe Dressner Has Cancer, Doesn’t Give a Fuck About It
Or maybe/probably he does give a fuck, i don’t know. What i do know is that Joe Dressner, wine importer extraordinaire for LOUIS/DRESSNER IMPORTS, was out in full force at the Louis/Dressner Farm Wine Imports producer tasting, held at Terroir Natural Wine Merchant April 23, cancer and all.
Joe Dressner puts on a smile
So why does this matter? Joe Dressner wants you to drink better wine (real wine in fact, but we’ll get to that), and to that end he flew in a number of the best, most interesting, most dynamic vignerons from France and Italy and shuttled them around the United States to tastings both professional and public, doing all this while battling cancer. Does any of this make any the wine he imports any better? No, of course it doesn’t. It doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of the wine. What it does mean is that Joe stands by and believes in his producers enough to be there, cancer be damned.
Lest you think otherwise, this a post about wine, and not some inspirational story about overcoming adversity. i don’t think i’m capable of writing something like that, and i doubt you would be much inspired if i was so touched by someone elses cancer i decided to write something as banal as a blog post.
If you don’t know the wines of Louis/Dressner, they are one of the handful of wine importers bringing in real (there’s that word again, if i say it again it’s coming out of your mirror and believe me, it’s going down) wine from Europe, along with Neal Rosenthal, Kermit Lynch. Chadderdon, Polaner, Jenny & Francois amongst others. So what is real (check your mirror) wine? It is wine that isn’t conciously fucked with, for lack of a better term. It is wine that speaks of the place and the people who made it, rather than a stylistical mould it made to fit. It is wine made by farmers (no shit, most real winemakers are farmers, how else do they know how to grow anything?), rather than consultants, by hands, rather than machines. It is natural yeasts that taste like whatever they taste like, not yeast that is made to taste like something else. It is oak where tradition says oak, not the palates of critics or a fickle public. It is, in short, wine. Nothing else.
(that last part sounds like it was cribbed, Dr. Frankenstein style, from a variety of press releases and winery brochures and/or books on natural wine)
The lineup consisted of about 15 winemakers from both France and Italy, some old favorites like Christine Eric Nicolas of Domaine Belliviere whose wine changed how i think of wine a few years back, and Mauro Vergano who makes some mind bending chinatos.
The full lineup was:
Domaine François Pinon – François Pinon
Domaine le Briseau – Christian Chaussard
Domaine Franck Peillot – Franck Peillot
Domaine Luneau-Papin – Pierre & Pierre-Marie Luneau
Domaine Desvignes – Claude-Emmanuelle & Louis-Benoît Desvignes
Arianna Occhipinti – Az. Agr. Occhipinti
Silvio Messana– Az. Agr. Montesecondo
Francesca Padovani – Campi di Fonterenza
Luca Roagna – Roagna
Alessandra Bera – Bera Vittorio & Figli
Cristiano Guttarolo – Az. Vi. Cristiano Guttarolo
Mauro Vergano – Chinati Vergano
Eric Texier – Eric Texier
Christine and Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière in Jasnières
Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées in Beaujolais
Evelyne de Jessey of Domaine du Closel in Savennières
as well as possibly a Burgundy producer whom i never met and whose wines i didn’t get to taste.
Highlights included the aforementioned wines from Belliviere, whose Rouge Gorge pineau d’aunis from the coteaux du loir is my baseline for this grape variety, and the two vintages (’06 and ’07) l’Effraie which offered two interesting takes on chenin blanc, one softer and more honeyed (’06) and one tarter and sharper (’07). Alessandra Bera, whose wines i had never tasted, had a fabulous arcese (an offbeat white made from cortese, favorita and arneis), and an even better moscato d’asti. i don’t yet know if Terroir is going to carry her wines in the future, but i can say that if they do, i will be buying. Another knockout was the wines of Luneau-Papin a muscadet producer that i am unfamiliar with. They presented four wines from three vintages (’07, two ’05s, ’02) that showed the depth and range of this underappreciated grape, from the tartly acidic ’07 to the round and thoughtful ’02. Continuing on, Arianna Occhipinti’s frappato was as good as the last time i had it, and she informed me that she would be expanding into white wines, to the delight of anyone digging her deep-groove-funk Sicilian stylings.
Domaine Brieseau (Christian Chaussard) and Francois Pinon were two producers i was familiar with in name only and now i’m glad that i am familiar names. Chaussard makes wine with abstract names (you are so nice, beautiful, bubbly) that some might mistake for marketing ploys to hide substandard wines. that is until you taste them. His wines are earthy, deep, Loire vin-naturel masterpieces. Pinon, who was kind enough to round up the last of his bottles to let us taste, is a chenin producer who i should have tried a while back. Seriously get a bottle of his petillant Vouvray (no dosage!), kick back and enjoy. Mauro Vergano makes damn fine chinato, and a damn fine chinato cocktail. If you’re not familiar with chinato, Mauro himself described it as a cross between Campari and sweet vermouth, although his is better than both. Lastly Eric Texier makes a lot of wine, and he brought a lot with him. Like nine fucking wines. How am supposed to remember them all? Check him out if you get a cahnce, he is doing some great stuff, especially with grenache, a generally lousy grape.
i tried a number of other wines throughout the night, but at some point lost track of them in my notes and can’t possibly do the winemakers justice, so i won’t even try.
What surprised me the most about these vignerons/farmers was the lack of pretension or salesmanship on their part. Sure they were proud of their wine, but there wasn’t any bullshit. It was taste, spit, conversation. At no point did any of them (even the fluent english speakers) try to tell me what their wines tasted like, or give me input on tasting the wines because geography and nomenclature. Coming from California and having toured wineries and met winemakers this is a bit of an oddity, letting the wines do the talking. My hat is off (not literally, as i rarely wear hats) to all these winemakers for making the wine world that much more real.
Note: It has been widely reported by Joe Dressner himself that Joe Dressner paid off a number of influential wine bloggers to write favorably about his wines, but only in New York. Guess we don’t merit bribes on the West Coast. Seriously though, who bribes with a five dollar bill?
Note: Upon editing i forgot to mention that Closel and Franck Peillot both put me in awe, especially Peillot’s wines from grapes i had no idea could reach that far.