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Reading between the Wines

Reading between the Wines

Terry Theise
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 200
  • Book Info
    Reading between the Wines
    Book Description:

    Acclaimed importer and wine guru Terry Theise, long known for his top-notch portfolio and his illustrious writing, now offers this opinionated, idiosyncratic, and beautifully written testament to wine. What constitutes beauty in wine, and how do we appreciate it? What role does wine play in a soulful, sensual life? Can wines of place survive in a world of globalized styles and 100-point scoring systems? In his highly approachable style, Theise describes how wine can be a portal to aesthetic, emotional, even mystical experience-and he frankly asserts that these experiences are most likely to be inspired by wines from artisan producers. Along the way, Theise tells us a little about how he got where he is today, explores the meaning of wine in the lives of vintners he has known, and praises particular grape varieties.Reading between the Winesis a passionate tribute to wine-and to what it can say to us once we learn to listen.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94705-4
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 1-14)

    I owe my life in wine to two people: Hugh Johnson and Rod Stewart.

    Rod came first. It was a Faces concert at the late, lamented Fillmore East on Second Avenue in New York City. Somehow I’d scored a front-row seat. Faces concerts in those days were like big drunken ramshackle rehearsals, with lots of boozy bonhomie. Rod would swig from a bottle of Mateus Rosé, and on one occasion he passed it down to some twitching rocker in the front row, who took a greasy hit and passed it along. Then it got to me. First sip of wine....

    (pp. 15-28)

    You’re at home watching TV in the evening. Let’s say you’re watching a DVD of something you really like. Unless you have some monstrous home-theater system, you’re looking at a relatively small screen across the room. You can’t help but see all your stuff strewn about. Usually you have a light or two on. You hear ambient noises.

    Now pretend you’re at the movies. The lights go down, and you’re sitting in a dark room with a bright screen encompassing your whole field of vision. Even with others around you, there is a strange, almost trance-like intimacy between these huge,...

    (pp. 29-56)

    Have you ever tried to field the question, What kind of wine do you like? Hard to answer, isn’t it? At least it’s hard to answer briefly, because often the kind of wines you like need a lot of words to describe them. I recently answered, “I like moderate wine,” and I knew what I meant by it, though I’m sure my questioner found me a tough interview.

    Part of the business of deepening both your palate and your acquaintance with your palate is to pay heed to what it responds to. Eventually you organize that information as patterns manifest...

    (pp. 57-66)

    James Hillman and Michael Ventura published a provocative book calledWe’ve Had 100 Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse. Well, we’ve had what seems like a hundred books purporting to “demystify” wine, and wine is more mysterious than ever. Not that the technocrat-enologist complex hasn’t been furiously laboring to remove every pesky variable from wine—damn that nature!—and Lord knows we’re ever more inundated with all manner of mass-produced industrial swill, but true wine issupposedto be complex, and if you think you know it all, well, pal, you don’t know nuthin’.

    Ah, but the poor...

    (pp. 67-94)

    Over the course of three decades of drinking wine, I began to realize which among its enticements were most important. This has to happen empirically; you can’t go in with assumptions already formed. You have to learn to recognize the difference between what you think you value and what you actually do. For me the things that matter become apparent when I see which topics I get into arguments about. I am not by nature a quarrelsome fella; I believe in sweet reason. But that doesn’t preclude passion, so here are the facets of wine with which I’m most absorbed,...

    (pp. 95-116)

    The question of “validity” arises in matters of taste only when one struts one’s democratic cred by claiming that one man’s taste is as good as another’s. The idea for this chapter came from a magazine article by a wine journalist who had a moment of awakening in which his idea of taste dilated to includetout le mondein its sentimental embrace. Anyone with intellectual aspirations knows this feeling, the groping toward the common touch, as if dropping yourg’s and drinking beer from the can will transform you into someone socially and sexually desirable. Show me someone who...

    (pp. 117-134)

    When you look at bottles of Mosel wine from the 1960s and before, even from the best vineyards, you will hardly ever see the wordRiesling.

    Burgundy labels do not contain the wordsPinot NoirorChardonnay. Vouvray and Savennières do not proclaimChenin Blanc, and neither Barolo nor Barbaresco saysNebbiolo. The classic Old World model was always based on theplacefrom which a wine hailed. We needed to learn the name of the grape.

    When wine was marketed in the New World, it was first labeled with place-names to which it wasn’t entitled. ThusChabliswas stripped...

    (pp. 135-152)

    Mine is not the first book by a professional wine importer, and I hope I’m not contributing to any sort of genre—“The beautiful things I’ve done, and the colorful people I’ve known….” That I-focus seems to distort the experience somehow, as if it were seen in a fun-house mirror that made some of it smaller and some of it larger than it really was. But how can I be sure what it really was or, in my case, still is?

    I have developed a portfolio of estates whose wines I select and advocate and sell. Every choice I’ve made...

  11. eight WINES THAT MATTERED: Or, “The Dog Ate My Point Scores”
    (pp. 153-184)

    When you’re new to wines, they all matter. You write notes to focus your palate, hone your concentration, and remember what you tasted. You read other people’s notes, too, so as to taste vicariously (especially if you can’t afford the glam wines you read about) and try to suss what tasting notes are “supposed” to be, and whether yours measure up.

    But eventually you reach a dead end with the whole tasting-note thing. It becomes a form of absurdity. Most tasting notes are associative (describing wine flavors in terms of other flavors), and this is of course tautological: saying a...

    (pp. 185-189)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 190-190)