A Real Wine Refresher: Highlights from the LDM (Louis/Dressner/McKenna) Portfolio

10/27/23 -

Many of our longtime customers will remember the years before 2020, when a crew of winemakers would descend upon New York for the annual Real Wine Tasting and Fundraiser, otherwise known as the Real Wine Attack. The tasting always coincided with the industry portfolio tasting for LDM (Louis/Dressner/McKenna) Wines, and was unique in that it was open to the public (as opposed to industry professionals and buyers only) and gave people an opportunity to meet some of the most authentic and soulful wine producers of Europe and beyond. First held in the original Chambers Street Wines location at 160 Chambers St., then in a former shoe factory in a basement in Tribeca, and in more recent years in the restaurant that we now know and love as Chambers NYC, this was truly a tasting to remember, and one that many of our customers would look forward to every year. Just to be clear, we are not lamenting the past but rather refreshing our collective memory, and making a promise that we will be BACK!!!...Next year. At least it's something to look forward to. We don't know where, but we know we must bring back the Real Wine Attack for the growing fan base of the fantastic LDM Wines portfolio!

In the meantime, while we weren't able to host a tasting for the public, the annual Fall LDM Portfolio tasting did just pass, and we were so pleased to see some old friends and taste new vintages and new bottlings. We were equally amused and delighted to meet the children of many of the producers we used to host, who are now working the market visits that their parents used to bring them to as kids!

Traditionally, we would send out an email blast after the LDM tasting, sharing highlights with our readers who were far away in other states. We continue the tradition here with a list of some favorite wines, by no means exhaustive, from the tasting that just passed. We should note that only about 20 producers were present representing their wines this Fall, so the list of wines below is just a sampling from the fine growers and producers in the LDM book.

For those of you who are not particularly familiar with the importance of LDM Wines, which had its humble beginnings in 1988 as Louis/Dressner Selections and then expanded to include the dynamic Kevin McKenna around 1994, we recommend checking out their website and the About Us section there. We'll included the manifesto below from 1999, as it explains their philosophy, and also accurately reflects the credo of Chambers Street Wines. As you may know, our own David Lillie used to traipse through the French countryside with Joe Dressner in the 90s, chasing leads from winemakers, magazines and books (ah yes, life before the Internet), and showing up at the first Dive Bouteille (who invited these random Americans?) as guests of Pierre and Catherine Breton, so the histories of LDM and Chambers Street (even Garnet if you go WAY back) are inextricably intertwined.


LDM manifesto, published in 1999.

Louis/Dressner Selections is a portfolio of over 100 vignerons hailing from France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia and Chile. We are a partnership of Denyse Louis, a native Burgundian, Joe Dressner and Kevin McKenna. Collectively, we spend nearly nine months a year in Europe working with our growers and selecting wines for importation to America.

We have no brands. We are not looking for them. We do have a group of often fanatical growers who are doing their best to make wines that are original because they are honestly crafted. These might seem old-fashioned, but in the present context it is almost revolutionary....

There are no gobs, no exaggerations, no over-this and over-that. We don’t have fruit bombs. What we do have is a group of growers who work their vines and make their wines with honesty, passion and humor.

In that sense THE BRAND is the convergence of these crazy growers and their American importers. Working together to produce and market natural products that follow several principles. 

The following techniques and guiding principles are what we believe is winemaking with integrity and respect for the traditions of the native region. This is fine winemaking at its purest, most fundamental level.

Wild Yeasts: All wines are made with the natural yeasts on the grapes, in the vineyards and in the cellars. Cultured yeasts to rush fermentation or add “enhancing” aromas and flavors are unacceptable. We look for wines that express their terroir. No enzymes, no hormones.

Hand Harvesting: Growers harvest by hand, not machine. We want the ripest fruit to be brought carefully and lovingly into the winery.

Low Yields: The growers want low yields for greater concentration. We look for growers with holdings in old vines. 

Natural Viticulture: We encourage growers to plow their vineyards to keep the soil an active eco-system, and to use natural methods in tending their vines.

No or Minimal Chaptalization: We do not want an artificially high degree of alcohol produced by adding sugar to the must. Non- or slightly chaptalized wines are more enjoyable and healthier to drink.

Non-Filtration: Wines are either not filtered or minimally filtered. We also encourage low levels of SO2.

Non-Interventionist Winemaking: We prefer a harmony, not an imposed style —wines should showcase their place of origin and varietal character. We are not looking for oak flavor, particular fruits or overly done aromatics. Minimal use of S02 is encouraged.

Enjoyment! Lastly, our most important “principle.” Because, the overblown world of overdone wines is fundamentally tiresome. We’re not looking for tasting specimens, but for wines that are great fun, and a great pleasure to drink.

We aren't big fans of wines that are...

The over-handling of wine is one of the fundamental caveats in winemaking. Repeatedly pumping wine from one vat to another and moving wine or grape must by truck affects the freshness and flavors of the wine. Of course, chemical adjustments can be made to cover up any faults....and Velveeta is delicious!

In almost all parts of the world it's common practice to use cultured yeasts and extra grape sugars to enrich the flavors of the grape juice during fermentation. Not to mention the foolish winemaker that keeps a shelf of flavor extracts on a shelf directly above the vat...WHOOPS!

Did you know it was common practice in most areas of the world to do "acid adjustments" by adding citric acid, tartaric acid and, less frequently, malic acid to adjust the acidity levels of a wine?

Restricting the number of grape bunches on a vine is the simplest, most basic technique for achieving greater concentration and flavor. The majority of wine-grape growers harvest at levels high above the norm to increase the number of bottles that may be sold...the simplest, most basic formula for increasing profits.

Sterile filtration is a method of forcing wine through microscopic screens that basically strip the wine of particles which may include materials that give wine a unique flavor. It is commonly used throughout the winemaking world.

While oak can be a good and interesting thing, there are excesses. The overuse of new oak is a departure from traditional winemaking techniques that, apart from being prohibitively expensive and greatly accelerating the deforestation of France, has created a new consumer demand for oak-flavored wines. So much so, that some disreputable wineries in certain parts of the world go so far as to add oak chips and oak extract flavors to wine!

Let's not kid ourselves, folks! The great majority of the wine press throughout the world, with notable exceptions, is wholly influenced by advertising and perceived glamour.
We've even found ourselves incredulous at some of the stellar ratings our own wines have received!

Any number of the above-mentioned factors and others (such as fancy bottles, postage stamp labels, etc) can put a wine over-the-top. There are also wines that burst out of the bottle due to added flavors and overextraction and are the "blockbusters wines" of the press and tastings, but inevitably can't hold up to aging or are completely incompatible with food.

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