The Muscadet Merchant
A few years ago Joe changed my life by simply standing behind a winemaker by the name of Eric Nicolas who works as hard as winemaker in a tiny mostly unknown Loire appelation, Jasnieres, with a grape, Pineau d’Aunis, that is even more obscure than the places it is grown in.
With the bottles he brought in he taught a lot of people a lot about wine, and more importantly he taught people about the people that made them.
Joe wasn’t merely working with muscadet, he was working with Marc Ollivier and Pierre et Monique Luneau-Papin. Buying a bottle of wines Joe brought in wasn’t merely buying an AOC or a brand, it was buying the people, the land, the history behind the wine. This is easier to do in Burgundy than in Muscadet where folks fight and fawn over bottles that could be traded for a car rather than a $13.99 bottle of wine from a place known more for supplying vacationing Brits than grand terroirs.
But Joe loved to drink these wines. He loved the people behind these wines. he thought there was a purpose and a force to celebrating what Eric Texier called a “culture of wine” of people farming the land, making wines like people used to when wine was both something to put on the table and a part of something larger, something that connects us all to produce, to work, to food. Before wine became an international commodity dominated by brands and made by laboratories.
Picking up a bottle of wine, turning it over and seeing a Louis/Dressner label is reassuring not because of the back label, but because once you turn the bottle back around you know there are real people behind that label because Joe, Kevin McKenna and Denyse Louis had met them, had talked to them, had seen the vineyards, had seen the work, had drank the wine.
Joe once said “Last night, I drank a beautiful bottle of Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal 2005 from Pierre Breton. It was sublime and reminded me that I used to be healthy. Not only that, the vineyard used to be there before I existed. It exists independently of my having cancer and will continue to exist. You ought to buy some.”
This is important. People oftentimes pass wine as a triviality, but Joe reminded us with every bottle he brought in that thereexists a Thierry, an Eric, a Didier, a Pierre and his succesor Manu, a Marc, an Arianna, a piece of land, grandfathers, sons and daughters, businesses, cultures, work, generations before and generations after, joy, hardship and these things are worth it.
Joe will be missed, but picking up a bottle of humble Muscadet from Marc Ollivier can bring all this back.