Prose is prose and poetry is poetry, and never the twain shall meet. At least that was my Kiplingesque belief until I read Terry Theise’s “Reading between the Wines”. At the foundation of this profound philosophical treatise on a seemingly humble subject – fermented grape juice, aka wine – is deep thought and astute observation. Masterfully expressed with rhythm, grace & style, skillfully harnessing the power of language. Is that not the definition of poetry?
It truly is a piece of creative writing unlike any other. Not just in the world of wine writing. Indeed, in the world of English literature itself. Is this an exaggeration? Perhaps I am sophomorically besotted? Does this book really qualify as literature? One dictionary meaning of the word reads “Writings having excellence of form or expression, expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest.” By this definition, the book certainly qualifies as a literary piece.
A wine importer of some repute, Terry Thiese’s writing emanates from the championship of a few central ideas. That it is OK to see wine as a bringer of mystical experience. To experience wine with your whole self – not just your mind or senses. To seek the authenticity that comes from rootedness in family, soil & culture. That there is such a thing as inherently good taste and to acknowledge this is not elitism.
He laments wine writers who feel it is their duty to demystify wine. Some even reassure you that there is nothing like “good wine” – that whatever you like is “good”. If you like Twinkies, says Terry, eat them. Have all the fun a Twinkie delivers. But don’t claim it is just as good as a home baked brownie made from natural fresh ingredients.
As I turned the first few pages, the author came across as a rebel for the sake of rebellion with gaping contradictions in the narrative. But a quarter of the way in, you come to see the contrariness in a new light. And take utter delight in the presentation of nuanced perceptions.
Take his turn of phrase on distinguishing “complexity” from “complicatedness.” Quote “The latter is usually frustrating, the former is usually wonderful. You have to direct a beam of mind to pick your way through complicatedness. You’ve nailed the flavors, quantified and named every nuance, and decided precisely how much you like the wine on whatever scale they told you to use. But complexity asks the opposite. It is an immediate sense of something you can’t know. Something you won’t be able to isolate or explain. Complexity is quiet. Complicatedness is noisy”. End quote.
Pick up a copy and escape to a world of sensory spirituality……………..if only for a moment. Your life will be richer for it.