I met Joe only once, about two years ago here in DC, though I’ve enjoyed his wines many times over the years. I can’t say he was a friend; I rather think we wouldn’t have hit it off. He was a bit rough around the edges, always eager by his own account to greet the world with an extended middle finger, and if our paths had crossed more often I suspect I would have been offered his digital salute as well. He was a champion of the “natural” wine movement, and his producers (mostly from France and Italy) embodied the philosophy that wine should be made with minimal intervention – no commercial yeasts, minimal manipulation in the cellar, and minimal sulfur.
A Louis/Dressner wine (Joe founded the company in 1988 with his wife, Denyse Louis) can be relied on to show individuality and character. Like Joe, they are not always agreeable, but they are invariably fascinating. We need more importers willing to take a stand like this and fight against the same-old/same-old wines.
A few weeks ago I visited Au Domaine, a boutique wine store in Alexandria, Virginia, and bought a bottle of Jean-Paul Brun’s Domaine de Terres Dorées Beaujolais, a delicious, earthy gamay made without commercial yeast, so it didn’t have the banana-y flavor we tend to associate with Beaujolais. We drank it over three days, and the wine stayed pretty constant, without evolving or changing much. Now that Joe is gone, I wish I’d tried a wine a little more … cantankerous.