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Food & Wine Remembers Joe Dressner

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Joe Dressner sought out genius winemakers like Thierry Puzelat.

© Antonis Achilleos
Joe Dressner sought out genius winemakers like Thierry Puzelat.

The pioneering, super-influential, widely admired wine importer Joe Dressner died of cancer last weekend, and the wine world has been bursting with remembrances. Dressner was famously (or infamously) blunt and opinionated, and though he championed a style of winemaking that could appear to edge on dogma (traditional methods, wild yeasts, low sulfur), he was no ideologue. Dressner's bottom line was that these wines tasted better—so, as our tribute, F&W editors salute the Louis/Dressner wines they've loved.
 


Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor
Marco de Bartoli Vecchio Samperi Marsala
It's hard to land on one specific wine from Joe Dressner's portfolio to write about—there are so many that are so good. But if I have a sentimental favorite, it's Marco de Bartoli's Vecchio Samperi Marsala. De Bartoli, who also passed away this year, was occasionally known as the wizard of Marsala—a nondescript mass-produced dessert wine that in his hands (and in this particular bottling) could become a kind of exotically aromatic, layered liquid, all hazelnut and dried orange peel and wisps of smoky tea, and, contrary to expectation, not sweet at all but dry. The nickname was deserved, in other words. I also love this wine because when I was in Sicily for my honeymoon twelve years ago, I visited the winery with my wife and chatted for an hour with de Bartoli, who was unexpectedly friendly despite his obvious surprise that two Americans would turn up unannounced at the doors of his (rather difficult to find) winery. For years it was essentially impossible to find his wines here; why am I not surprised that in the end they wound up with Joe Dressner?
 
Megan Krigbaum, Associate Wine Editor
Agnès and René Mosse Moussamoussettes
I can't claim responsibility for discovering Agnès and René Mosse’s Moussamoussettes, but I will fully accept responsibility for buying most of the cases allotted to New York City. A few years ago, myboyfriend picked up a bottle of this sparkling rosé on the way to dinner at our neighborhood BYOB Middle Eastern place on a whim. We popped open its soda cap top and were entirely delighted. Now we beg our local wine shop for more. It’s a happy wine, a wine that makes it easy to drink the whole bottle. The Mosses are one of my favorite organic producers of top-notch Chenin Blanc in the Loire—they bottle Chenins from several different AOCs, essentially a study of that grape grown in different terroirs. But Moussamoussettes is not this sort of thinker's wine; it’s a pure pleasure wine. And it’s completely different every vintage. The first year, it was quite dry with juicy strawberry fruit. Last year, it was more earthy than fruity, and more bubbly. And this year it was shockingly sweet—better for dessert than with spinach pie, admittedly. There probably aren’t any more bottles of this year’s Moussamoussettes on shelves, but I’m already waiting for next year.  
 
Lawrence Marcus, Associate Digital Editor
2006 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais L'Ancien
Odd as it might sound, this lowly non-cru Beaujolais was, for me, a bit of a revelation. I bought it expecting a simple Gamay to go with roasted chicken, but that's not what it turned out to be. This wine had none of the wild, edgy flavors that are sometimes associated with the "natural" approach favored by Dressner's producers. Instead, it had real polish. The tannins and deep berry flavors were perfectly balanced in a way that was striking; few wines have quite that much finesse. Basically, this Beaujolais was insanely good. I went out and bought six more bottles, and drank them over the next few years. That a $15 Gamay could age gracefully amazed me, and proved that price and prestige don't have everything to do with great wine.
 
Kristin Donnelly, Senior Food Editor
2004 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Le Buisson Pouilleux
I was indoctrinated into the “real wine” movement while working at Chambers Street Wines in 2004. During a dinner with some wine business people, I brought out this bottle, made by rock-star natural winemakers Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat. It was nothing like other Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley, which were typically almost clear and very minerally. This was deep golden and cloudy. “Orange wines” were still a fringe phenomenon, so people assumed the wine was flawed. By then, I had learned not to judge a wine by its appearance so I convinced everyone to try it. It was rich, floral and exotic smelling and almost honeyed on the palate—a truly gorgeous wine that was a big hit at the dinner. When I told Joe how much I loved the “Tue-Boeuf Sauvignon Blanc,” he chided me: “You mean Le Buisson Pouilleux,” he said in his Queens-accented French. Typical Joe. He was never a fan of referring to wines the American way, by grape variety, and often made fun of the habit on his blog. Just one of the many reasons people loved him.

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