Thomas George wants to remove the intimidation factor of wine
(Left) Bacchus & Books offers wine and spirits courses certified by London’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust; (Right) Thomas George is renovating the building at 10 Gillon Street.
Thomas George fell in love with wine during a college semester abroad in France. When his mother and brother visited him, the three traveled to the village of Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy. “I was just smitten with the whole experience,” recalls George, who was born in London to American expats and grew up in Asheville (his late grandmother was French).“It was that mix of the French heritage and experiencing the magic of wine and how it can bring people together. It planted a seed.”
Now, the University of Virginia graduate who spent several years working at three wineries—Round Pond Estate, Failla Wines, and Whitehaven—is pairing his affinity for grapes with his fondness for the written word. His new business, Bacchus & Books, aims to be a haven for oenophiles and bibliophiles in an 1820 building in the French Quarter.
George, who had vacationed in Charleston as a child, purchased the building at 10 Gillon Street last year and is completing a historic renovation of the four-story structure, which was once a blacksmith shop. In October, he started offering courses certified by London’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust, but had to move the classes online several months later due to COVID-19. Level 1 and 2 courses in both wines and spirits are taught, with the initial wine course designed for amateurs and professionals who wish to gain a solid foundation. “After completing the course, you have the confidence to analyze wines, to talk about them in a professional way, and go to a store or a restaurant and order in an informed way,” says George. With a little knowledge, he says, “the world of wine starts to open up to you.”
(Left) Wine Concierge - Some wines George recommends for late summer and early fall: Rosé: Wölffer Summer in a Bottle Rosé, New York, Bubbles: Jansz, Premium Cuvée, Australia, White: Produttori di Manduria, Alice Verdeca, Puglia, Italy, Red: Mészáros Pál, Ohmerops, Hungary; (Right) Bacchus & Books logo.
Earlier this summer, Bacchus & Books debuted its online bookstore, featuring vino-centric literature and resource books, and its online wine shop, offering a curated selection of classic and off-the-beaten-path bottles in “quarantine relief packages” as well as curbside pickup. “We’re serving the need for people to have something enjoyable at home during these challenging times,” he says.
George’s goal is to scour the world looking for more affordable vintners that “punch above their weight.” “A $20 bottle that drinks like a $40 variety or a $40 bottle that drinks like a $70 wine, that’s what I’m going after,” he says.
He plans to reintroduce in-person courses again this month and soon will debut a wine club. George looks forward to the day he can uncork a bottle and share a toast with his customers in his cozy, welcoming space with no pretense, arrogance, or intimidation. “That has no place in wine for me,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s about people and pleasure.”