Ordinary Pleasures with Terry Theise

Ordinary Pleasures with Terry Theise 2

“Beware of the esoteric pleasure; they will blunt your appreciation of the ordinary ones.”

This quote by Anaïs Nin has been on my mind a lot. In the course of one’s career, you form a number of ideas that you build around. Big ideas that follow you or you follow. This is the most recent one. It relates to something that I talk about occasionally but that constantly bears out in my life as a wine drinker.

Often, I find the most drinking pleasure in wines that are located somewhere in the middle of a grower’s range. The village level wines, not the crus. These are the Federspiel type wines. They’re not the cheapest wines and they are often lost. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is that we separate wines into categories in our minds. These wines are not inexpensive or unassuming enough to be used every day, but they are not important enough to make an occasion out of. The Germans have an expression for this: “Weder Fisch noch Fleisch”- neither Fish nor Meat”.

What would it be like if we stopped asking wines to jump through our own conceptual hoops and focused on wines that merely happen to taste delicious? If all we required of wine was that it was satisfying and yummy these are the wines that we would invariably reach for. Again and again.

When my wife is away, I don’t want to drink anything that she might be sorry to have  missed. There are so many ways for these “medium” wines to be useful,  and a lot more attention needs to be paid. They offer a higher plane of appreciation than every day, inexpensive quaffing wines, and they can be more delicious than monumental “occasion wines” also.

What we’re talking about are wines that deliver everything that fine wine can deliver without the extra power we’ve come to expect from the “greats”. Sure, there are the big wines, the impressive wines, the ones we are supposed to take seriously, worshiped. But none of these attributes are particularly conducive to enjoyment. This is a whole other way of looking at wine. Our own drinking patterns bear some examination.

-Terry Theise, February, 2017
Ordinary Pleasures with Terry Theise 3


Here’s a short list of some of the wines that fit directly into this category, but there are countless others:

2015 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett

Fantastic! Each great thing about this magnificent site, rendered strong and true, and emphasizing the inherent key-lime profile.

2015 Heidi Schröck Furmint

I drank a Furmint from another Rust grower a few nights after tasting this. It was fresh and modern and more oaky than I preferred. Heidi’s wine is temperamental, sometimes obscure, always entailing a certain taking of risk. This ’15 shows the spicy face of the variety, wick-smoke and ginger; the florals are rare and exotic, as if you’re in a grove of flowering trees in a new place you’ve never been.

2015 Ott Gemischter Satz

A newbie from Ott, mostly from new vineyards he’s recently bought, and mostly Welschriesling; it’s carbonically macerated, and the wine is walnutty, vibrant and racy.

2015 Gobelsburg Langenlois Grüner Veltliner

I was wary. Yet another wine? Sure, I understand this is a “village” wine to lead in to the Crus coming up, and I appreciate how Michi didn’t want to jump from the negoç wine directly to Steinsetz. But whew, we got a lot of skus as it is…..

The first sip demolished my concerns. It contains young-vines juice from the sites Redling, Thal, Lamm (!), Renner and Grub, which makes those wines even better. It shows superb focus in an herbal direction; hyssop and spearmint, leading into a spicy finish that leaves a tingle behind. Mid-palate is tense and vigorous, with “physio” sweetness.

2015 Glatzer Dornenvogel Grüner Veltliner

It means “thorn-bird,” named after the avian marauders who eat the ripest grapes, because they are smart and hungry birds. It signifies the top reserve wine in its category. Usually there’s a big jump from the basic wine to this, but in ’15 the basic wine’s so good that the two differ more in style of flavor than in concentration or density. It starts with this being 80% sponti (spontaneous fermentation), which adds to the typical aroma of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. The palate is markedly salty, like eating Wellfleets with bread dunked in just-pressed new oil. More red pepper here, more intensity, but curiously less dicht. It’s different, it has “reserve” flavors, it will age longer.

2015 Müller-Catoir Haardt Muskateller Trocken

Germany’s (and thus among the world’s) greatest Muscat has been divided into two wines this year. This one’s zingy and primordial; ludicrous “green” flavors; solid and direct, minty and mizuna; a clamorous yet crystalline beauty.

2015 Goldatzel Johannisberger Goldatzel Riesling Kabinett Feinherb

“Feinherb” at this address means a wine on the dry side of Halbtrocken, i.e., dry enough to be “Brut” if it were sparkling. This is really pretty, delicate and winsome, flowery along violet lines. It’s keen, almost urgent in its tender way, like a Nahe wine, with superb balance on the dry side. Hard to resist!

2015 Merkelbach Urziger Würtzgarten Riesling Spätlese #10

This is complete and entirely striking, for its purism and lack of (nor need for) makeup; it’s the opposite of spiffy, a genius but an autodidact, with savant-like expressiveness; force, dignity and length, it squares the circle and culminates the culture.