My Thoughts on Great Wine

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One of my favourite books is Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise. Theise is a James Beard Foundation Award winner for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional and works as an importer of Old World wines. This book was recommended by one of the best local sommeliers, Emily Walker, who is in charge of the wine program at Yew (among the top in Vancouver).

If you’re a fan of learning about wine, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. He speaks so eloquently about wine and its importance in our society, focusing on why it truly matters. One passage that always sticks out to me is his explanation of the difference between “great” wine and “good” wine. Have you ever thought about this? Ever since reading this book, I categorize my events/nights/occasions into “good” wine nights, or “great” wine nights. . He explains why “good” wine is usually his preferred choice: 

“It can grow tedious, you know, to encounter a ‘great’ wine that spends the whole evening talking about itself. Obviously the truly great wine both compels and warrants all the attention one is willing to give it, but for every sublime and articulate wine there are a few dozen chatterboxes and bores. We risk squandering the capacity to enjoy that which is simple because we seemingly need to insist that it be merely simple, or that simple isn’t good enough for us. Great, complex wines are wonderful, enthralling, life-affirming, soul-stirring, but it’s worth asking whether they are relaxing. Good, simple wines are. Good, simple wines speak to our spirit of play and ease and repose, exactly because they don’t demand our exclusive attention” (p. 80 Reading Between the Wines). 

However, there are times that call for a great wine, and Valentine’s Day is definitely one of them for me. Whenever I want to drink something special, I reach for a nice Champagne, an older Italian bottle, or a Gigondas or Bordeaux from France. We are lucky enough to have a small collection of gifted French Bordeaux from ’09 and ’10. While we will be cellaring most of it for at least a decade, there was one that called for trying in 5 years (aka, 2014) and trying again in 2019. We thought that a nice Valentine’s Day dinner in would be a perfect occasion, and it was.

So, my advice to you? Stock up on what I call “table wine” – wine that you’d be okay drinking on a Sunday night in your sweatpants watching #KUWTK (did I just admit that)? But, don’t shy away from investing in a few bottles to save for a special occasion. While you’ll reach for your table wine most of the time, there is truly something special about taking a few extra minutes to savour a wine you’ve been saving, a wine that is “great.”

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