This summer there was a great tasting and book reading held at Cavatappi’s warehouse down in SoDo. Terry Theise presented his current releases that are available here in Seattle - mainly 2016 and 2017 German Rieslings, NV Grower Champagnes and a handful of interesting Austrian white wines- and he read from his new book. I was preinclined to go bananas for this lineup since I am a big fan of the wines he champions and I admire his philosophy. Here’s how he describes his job as a wine importer.
“The first principle for me is to tell you the truth. If I offer a wine it’s because I liked it and think you should buy it. I’m fallible, wine is changeable, and I can make the isolated mistake, but I won’t suggest you buy a wine I don’t think you should. Period. This entails a risk with producers, who are correctly proud of their wines and who themselves have favorites they hope will be sold in the States. The risk is exacerbated by my laying everything out in writing, and though this text is written for you, it’s also read by them. Do I pull punches? Never. I may seek to write diplomatically, and I will always be humane and respectful, but I’ve built a covenant of trust with my customers for 29 years now, and it could be squandered in six months if I started dissembling or broke faith with my core values.”
I mean, what kind of a sales guy talks like this? “My thirsts as a wine lover- for soul, companionability, authenticity- inform my choices as a wine merchant, and the larger value of what I seek to do is not only to please your senses but to enrich your lives.”
If you dig this in any capacity, you’re gonna love reading his annual catalogs. His descriptions of the wines inform consumers but he also tells a great story. His new book is called “What Makes A Wine Worth Drinking - In Praise of the Sublime”. Somehow he’s dropping names left and right, drinking unicorn wines with the cool kids but it doesn’t come off as gross or braggy, somehow you’re rooting for him, yes! tell us more about your ridiculous good fortune to be in the exact right place at the exact right time when that special club champagne cork was popped!
I read a lot of wine writing - both for fun and for work. For better or for worse, we live and die by the wine reviews with point scores from the critics … so I have to read those but I actually like to read longer form wine writing. Kelli White’s explanatory pieces on the GuildSomm website are super interesting and Esther Mobley’s wine journalism for the San Francisco Chronicle is best thing about that paper these days. I like listening to Levi Dalton’s “I’ll Drink to That” Podcasts so much I started a tasting group around them. It is great that there more voices and more platforms about wine now. What is hard to find though is wine appreciation that isn’t cheesy AF.
It is easy to criticize. It is easy to deconstruct and destroy. It is way more difficult to share the sincere and complicated appreciation of something - ANYTHING! Terry Theise openly appreciates wines that are “gentler, less overt, more analog, more companionable, because they draw only so much attention to themselves. Theirs is a quiet purpose: to make you feel better without your noticing.” Dude’s making himself vulnerable going on the record writing about wines that make him feel his feelings! He talks about nautical twilight! Wistfulness! Saudade and “the sweet sad message of the beauty of the world”!
As we prepare for harvest (my 22nd believe it or not), it feels like a good time to be (re)inspired. A toast to Terry Theise!
The Theise Manifesto
Beauty is more important than impact.
Harmony is more important than intensity.
The whole of any wine must always be more than the sum of its parts.
Distinctiveness is more important than conventional prettiness.
Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality.