Spring Lecture Series Recap: Leading Between the Vines

By Ariel Knoebel

On April 17th, the Gastronomy Program was graced with the effervescent presence of Terry Theise, a renowned wine importer and German wine specialist. Theise is known for his holistic approach to wine and his advocacy for small-scale production. As he describes it, “small scale wine stirs the soul in a way organization wine cannot.” 

Fans of Theise’s notoriously colorful tasting notes, which forego traditional descriptors of fruit and oak to instead compare vintages to overeager dogs, seductive temptresses, and bolts of lightning, would have been pleased with the content of the evening. Theise casually spun stories throughout the presentation, conversing with the audience as if we were all old friends (probably because many in the front rows actually were), and speaking candidly and authoritatively on small-scale wine production without abandoning his signature flare for language. Of course, the poetics did not stop with the main event: a screening of his impressionistic film, Leading Between the Vines.  

Theise introduced his film as a “love letter to the German Riesling culture,” a fitting description for this careful portrait of small growers along the Rhine River and the wines they so painstakingly produce. The film runs just under an hour, and introduces viewers to a series of family owned wineries and the people that keep them alive. It explores identity, authenticity, and heritage through the lens of terroir to portray how authentic wines connect flavor to soil, people to land, generations to each other, and each family to a larger culture. Like a good glass of wine, the film united its consumers to the vineyard in a way beyond the superficial, and allowed the audience a look into the realities—good and bad—of the beautiful world of wine production.

When asked about his objective for the film, Theise explained that he was hoping people would walk away thinking, “I don’t know much about wine, but that sure seems like a meaningful way to live a life.” Certainly, the stories shared by the film’s winemakers and the passion they clearly held for their work, set against the breathtaking backdrop of centuries old vineyards and a carefully selected soundtrack, left viewers with a new appreciation for the love inside each bottle. As the film says, “the love you give to the vines, they give you back.” 

Ariel Knoebel is a first year student of the Gastronomy program. When she isn’t planning her next meal, Ariel can be found perfecting her handstand, reading at her favorite coffee shop, or seeking out dogs to pet on the Esplanade.  

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