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Reading Between The Wines, Terry Theise (2010)

Published by UCP.

I finally get the time to place my fingers on the keyboard, about two weeks after I’ve actually finished this book – I’m already a third of the way through a follow-up volume…

‘Reading Between The Wines’ (with the addition of a little, but not too much, writing) sounds just like my current existence – so this must be a book written for me – and largely it is. Terry Theise (that would be pronounced ‘Thizer’ if his German connections follow through…), or TT, as I will from now-on refer to him, certainly has a gift for writing; though his American roots shout out from the pages as he ‘kibitzes, schvitzes and schmaltzes (and many other words with ‘zeds’ (zees) in them that I don’t comprehend) his way through the pages.

TT’s prose is both evocative and flowery, and it paints pictures in equal measure, it is often ‘overly-fantastic’ too; it would be a great source for people wanting to cull quotes for definitive proof what nerds wine ‘enthusiasts’ can be. Some of the earlier chapters show this extreme and even had my attention wandering, but despite the emotional connection to wine that is the book’s central contention, I found the last third of the book completely absorbing.

I think it’s enough to give you a few short examples, to see if it’s a book for you, but I enjoyed it very much and would offer it a strong recommendation:

  • “Sometimes when I talk with growers they like to remind me that they’re farmers first, before anything else. That’s easy to forget when you’re dealing with the New World, but in the Old – or the parts of it with which I’m involved – you never forget. Yet their world is not only farming; it’s also selling, marketing, publicizing, engineering, and craftsmanship. If you plant carrots, you eventually harvest carrots. There are things you can do to ensure you have wonderful carrots, but once you put them in the customer’s basket, your work is done. Imagine if picking the carrots were followed by processing them into a soup or a beverage that was then evaluated alongside everyone else’s carrot product, deconstructed, given scores, and all of this so you can be ranked as a producer of carrot drinks. I don’t know about you, but this would make me bonkers. Small wonder the vintner likes to be out in the vineyard where he can escape the noise for a while.”
  • On writing tasting notes: “But some wines embody a story – not merely a narrative, but a kind of curiosity, as they cast out tentacles into the ether. Other wines stimulate the imagination, and you’re off and running. I am very sure these things are worth getting down, but if you seek to share them you will sometimes run afoul of a certain kind of person who actually does want to know that your 2004 Domaine du Crachoir tasted like ‘beer-battered kiwi fritters, boysenberries, and pork snouts.’
  • “In many cases the quietest beauty and the deepest stories live in older wines. This is in part because they grow less brash and frisky, less explicit – but more searching and, at best, more sublime.”

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?