Confessions of a Wine Salesman

Delray Beach, FL – We had occasion this past weekend to thumb through a copy of What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking by Terry Theise.

If the name is unfamiliar, Theise is both a writer and an importer, a combination which is to the world of wine what being a writer/director is to the world of cinema – aspired to by the many, achieved by a rare few.

Continued below. First, French winemaker Julien Miquel reveals the ideal storage temperature for wine (warmer is not necessarily worse)… the ideal humidity… plus how to tell when a wine is at its peak… 

NOTE: If you haven’t already watched Part 2 of our video series on the Evolution of Wine Through Aging, click here to catch up here

How to Spot a Wine’s Peak Age (The Evolution of Wine Through Aging – Part 3)

Confessions of a Wine Salesman Cont’d

Perhaps the most famous writer/importer is Kermit Lynch, who began importing French wines for his small shop in Berkeley, California in the 1970s. Lynch inspired a generation with the publication of what may be the greatest wine book ever written, Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France. 

Theise’s book is not quite of the same order. Theise is famous for his yearly catalogs, which read less like guides and more like a sort of secular (if slightly angry) scripture (see the 2018 catalog here) complete with both proverbs (“Lots of wines, many of them good wines, let you taste the noise. But only the best let you taste the silence”) and trinitarian mysteries (“Soul is more important than anything, and soul is expressed as a trinity of family, soil, and artisanality.”)

In book form, Theise stumbles, writing dense paragraphs that manage to be at once both dry and saccharine. Go figure: he specializes in German, Austrian, and Champagne wines.

Theise’s book

Yet, writing style aside, the book is not without its gems. In one passage, Theise talks about his early career as a sales hack for a large wine distributor:

“…much of what makes distributors function is satisfying their key suppliers… This meant I needed to extol the virtues of a lot of mundane, commercial, industrial wine. […] Something started siphoning the juice from my soul… it was the cynicism and pretension of using the lingo and the sensibilities of (let’s agree to call them) ‘fine’ wines in order to sell the other stuff. It devalued every aspect of my formative experience, asserting the absence of any line between what I knew to be valid wines and these other items, which I began to call ‘beverages containing wine.’”

What can be done in the face of this “cynical” reality?

Theise urges us to rebel and remake ourselves as champions of small-batch, family estate wines, a world whose values, he warns, “are in ceaseless peril, unless they are explained and defended.”

We couldn’t agree more. Here! Here!