Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reading Between the Wines

Along with the 2009 German Rieslings showing up in the local market place Amazon was kind enough to deliver Terry Theise's new book, Reading Between the Wines.

It's certainly a different approach to evaluating wine and as Theise says, it's not about taking the mystery out of wine like so many other books lately, it's more about putting the mystery back into the wine.

It's a different approach and one that I certainly like. It is so easy and fashionable to be analytical about wine, to break it down to its components, to discuss it as though it's just an assemblage of its various parts - acid, tannin, fruit etc. Theise's approach is to let the wine take your mind to where ever it happens to wander, and the same wine might take two different people to two entirely different places with neither person nor place being neither right nor wrong. In the end, though he tends to shy away from this description, it's sort of a modified Zen approach to drinking wine. Whatever the case I have found the wines that Theise imports to be among my favorites.

Late in the book he mentions a favorite book of his and a favorite wine writer. One of his favorite books is the Fireside Book of Wine by Alexis Bespaloff. The book is a collection of essays, poetry, tasting articles, long and short pieces spanning about three centuries. The out of print book was first published in 1977 and my copy stays near the bedside and gets browsed frequently. Theise also cites as one of his early influences Gerald Asher's columns in the now defunct Gourmet magazine. Beginning in the mid 1970's I photo-copied a number of these columns from the magazine as they appeared, and they are enclosed in several, readily accessible  binders. There are perhaps 75 to 100 of these columns and they remain fresh and alive. It's nice to understand where a writer is coming from, and it's even nicer when I can go back to his roots as well as mine.

Do yourself a favor and read this small book. University of California Press, 2010.

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