Joe Dressner, founder of US importer Louis Dressner Selections and a leading figure in the natural wine movement, has died at the age of 60 of a brain tumour.
Thousands of his customers and colleagues were familiar with the day-to-day progress of his illness through his extraordinary blog The Amazing Misadventures of Captain Tumour Man
Announcing ‘Hi, I’m Joe Dressner the famous wine importer and I have brain cancer!’, he explained why he was keeping his ‘cancer problems’ separate to his business.
‘I already have a wine blog and frankly wine is such a luxury business that I hate to mix my cancer problems with my wine observations. I think it would be a general downer for the lifestyle crowd out there.’
One of his last posts read, ‘I have had a great life, from marching for the victory of Viet Cong, to bringing real, natural wines to America, to working with vignerons who have made a difference, raising money for Partners in Health in Haiti, and to sticking out my middle finger to every pompous, reactionary asshole I came across in and out of the wine world.’
On the company website his son Jules wrote on Saturday 17 September, ‘My father Joe died last night in front of my sister Alyce and I around 1:45 am. He spent the last two weeks of his life in hospice care in our apartment in midtown Manhattan. He was not in any pain.’
Dressner championed and sold wines from small, artisan producers long before natural wine became fashion.
He had no background in wine but discovered a passion for authentic wines through his wife Denyse, whose family comes from the Mâconnais.
He set up Louis Dressner Selections in 1989 – the ‘Louis’ is Denyse’s maiden name – looking for producers who worked with natural yeasts, picked by hand, had low yields, used little or no chaptalisation and who did not use pesticides.
Louis Dressner Selections now has over 100 producers mainly from France and Italy.
Catherine Roussel of Clos Roche Blanche in Touraine said, ‘We worked with Joe for over 15 years. He had amazing respect and love for his producers. He was really someone out of the ordinary and did a great deal for us. However, on occasions he could be insufferable because he bluntly spoke his mind.’
Dressner leaves his wife Denyse, and his children Jules and Alyce .
Written by Jim Budd, and Adam Lechmere