Sunday Reading: Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise
It is rare to find wine writing that is itself worth writing about, mostly because the majority of authors compose with a barren and limp prose that inspires only the uninspiring. But on rare occasions I encounter a writer who is more limpid than limp, whose alacrity communicates a love of the mystical and abstract far more directly than most can explain the glaringly obvious. Terry Theise is precisely this sort of author.
Just as the title alludes, Reading Between The Wines is a book about what we don’t immediately see and obviously experience. It is, rather, a meditation on what wine appreciation can mean beyond flavour, beyond scores, beyond industry, and most importantly, beyond perfection. In fact, Theise’s book is an hommage to the imperfect. In doing so he manages to embrace the most human elements of wine – those that compel mere aficionados to become disciples of the most profound and complex agricultural product on the planet.
But there is great humility in this book even as Theise boldly asserts his perspective and values. There is room for conversation here. Like any great book, Reading Between The Wines offers a serious challenge to the status quo; in this case standard wine appreciation is given the spotlight and then unceremoniously deconstructed piece by piece.
This is not a book that will tell you what to drink or how to blind taste. It is not an expression of the author’s encyclopedic knowledge or a dogmatic voyage through what is good and right in the wine world versus what is evil. Rather, Reading Between the Wines is an honest and passionate manifesto about why wine matters – it tries to bring mystery back into the industry (as the “remistifying wine” chapter testifies to) by a combination of personal stories, philosophical musings and straightforward confessions of important experiential moments.
The most accurate statement I can make about this book is that it isn’t what you’ve come to expect from typical wine writing. The best testament I can give to this is simply to quote one of my favourite passages from the book where Theise talks about wine’s “somewhereness”, or what he calls its “connectedness”:
“If you read a passage of poetry and feel that sudden silence as the world expands and deepens, and you hear yourself wonder, I used to have this thing in my life; where did it go? I have places to show you. They are what I wish to capture here, because the world keeps grinding us down to the nub until we forget we are even hungry or alive. But these places are still here. You can go to them whenever you want. You can live the life they offer. You can remove the thorn from your paw.”