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Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters [Hardcover]

Jonathan Nossiter
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2010
Jonathan Nossiter had his first taste of wine at the age of three in Paris, from his father's finger. For him, wine is 'memory in its most liquid and dynamic form,' as essential an expression of culture as film, books or painting. From the wine shops and three-star restaurants of Paris to the biodynamic vineyards of Burgundy, from the hipster bistros of New York to film locations in Rio de Janeiro and Athens, Liquid Memory investigates the infinite mysteries of terroir, the historical sense of place that makes wine a living, expression of cultural identity that can stretch back centuries. It is also a joyful master class in locating the soul of a wine, and in learning to trust your own palate and desires.

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Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters + Mondovino [DVD] (2004)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848874553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848874558
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 672,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'This is the greatest book ever written about wine' Bill Buford

About the Author

Jonathan Nossiter is a film director and former sommelier. His feature films have won Best Film and Best Screenplay prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, and been shortlisted for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He lives in Rio de Janeiro. Liquid Memory is his first book.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Personalized - Just the way I like it! 22 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover
Ok, so you're not going to learn how to be a sommelier, but it does hit a spot. The author's enthusiasm, descriptions of Burgundy, absolute hate for current wine fashions and in particular those who promote and profit from it - these made it quite an enjoyable read for me. I might look up his docufilm on the same topic.

In fact, I wouldn't mind having a drink with yer man Nossiter - I just might enjoy myself!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hay, did I mention my film career? 29 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover
This could have been an interesting piece of work. Instead, fairly interesting musings on wine and the meaning of life are interspersed between (not so) casual references to the author's burgeoning movie career.

"I Nossiter" or "Nossiter: My struggle", would have been a more suitable title for this tedious piece of work.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My opinion 7 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is curs, bur my expectations where diferent. It's my problem not the writer's one. Sometimes a discription of the book " is not avaivable. And the choise is Made based only on the author's or the book title. Thos may cause an inconvinient. choise
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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something of a disappointment 25 Oct 2009
By Chambolle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Nossiter is the creator of "Mondovino," a riveting and entertaining documentary/screed about the Parkerization, globalization and industrialization of wine and those who struggle to resist it by continuing to make "terroir wines" that honestly express the place they come from and the people who make them. Based on Mondovino, I came to this book with high expectations and predisposed to be enchanted. "Liquid Memory" confirms what Mondovino demonstrated: Nossiter is a true believer in "terroir winemaking." On that score, I'm with him 110%. He likes the wines and winemakers I do. He decries the "critics," wines and winemakers in my own personal pantheon of enological demons. He extols the virtues of cellaring honest and well made "minor" wines from "bad vintages" because they may well have something wonderful to say, even when they are ten or twenty years old.

This may all be well and good. Alas, the book is marred by an overdose of three things: (1) bombastic/pedantic/sophomoric flights of fancy and psychobabble ; (2) irrelevant name-dropping; and (3) backbiting and sniping at folks on the author's personal enemies list. Do I really want or need to know that Nossiter drank wine x with "talented local film director Sandra Kogut and her American husband, Thomas Levin, an ebullient Princeton professor of postmodern bent"; or that he spoke with "Edward Bradley, my ever-engage professor of Homeric Greek and Latin from Dartmouth College" while he was working on Mondovino? No, I really do not.

I came to this volume expecting a reasoned and insightful essay on the culture and esthetics of winemaking and the enjoyment of wine. That is certainly here, in dribs and drabs, but unfortunately blended with extended forays into Nossiter's experiences and predilictions as a film-maker and cineaste (Ettore Scola, Cassavetes and Fassbinder, anyone?); fuzzy headed political theory (perhaps Reagan and Sarkozy are somehow responsible for the prevalence of flabby, extracted, low acid, high alcohol wines?); and a vendetta involving a Spanish winemaker and journalist named Victor de la Serna. Reading all about this last left me downright queasy and ill at ease -- like watching some red-faced lunatic screaming at his invisible demons on the subway -- and wishing that Nossiter had been able to stay on the high road rather than engage in this silly sort of mud-wrestling in public.

The high point of the book, at least for me, is the all too brief Part III, "All Roads Lead to Burgundy." Part III succeeds, in large measure, because it consists mostly of the plain-spoken and insightful words of three articulate and seriously good winemakers -- Jean-Marc Roulot, Christophe Roumier and Dominique Lafon. These three state, more simply and directly than anything else in this volume, what honest, terroir driven winemaking is all about. The writing here succeeds for much the same reason Mondovino succeeded as film -- Nossiter has mostly stepped out of the way and let the winemakers do the talking, albeit applying his own sensibilities as editor to help them deliver their message as effectively as possible.

I find what Parker, the Wine Expectorator and others have done to winemaking, wine marketing and the personal enjoyment of wine as odious as anyone does, including Nossiter. However, it seems at this point Parker bashing has turned into a cottage industry that spawns a multiplicity of books like this one, in which the authors mostly preen and preach to the choir. Far more interesting and productive reflections on terroir winemaking abound, among them a nice little volume edited by Jacky Rigaux, translated into English as "Terroir & the Winegrower" and published by Terres en Vues. Rigaux's book consists of short interviews and essays from many winemakers and negociants, predominantly Burgundians but also including some folks from Alsace, the Loire, Bordeaux, Italy, California, and South Africa. These are the folks who must put philosophy into practice out there among the vines and in the cuverie, and they have much to say -- as they did in Mondovino and as Roulot, Roumier and Lafon do in "Liquid Memory."

This is a worthwhile book -- when Nossiter isn't busy prattling on about his personal list of "great Italian directors" or his lunch with Charlotte Rampling, which is not why one buys and sits down to read a book subtitled "Why Wine Matters." Just as heavy handed winemaking obscures "terroir," here the subject matter is somewhat buried beneath the author's personal stamp.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Come on Guys! 22 Feb 2010
By Jeremy S. Block - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I think you are being too hard on him. First off, it is a somewhat memoir type book of his journey through the wine world. I never sensed that he was being bombastic and arrogant in doing so, but that is the way he feels that he wanted to convey his points. Others do it their own way, but does this take away from the premise of the book: That the wine world is fu$%ed on so many levels and who is to blame? I dont think it does and he makes his points rather well in good solid writing with lots of detail. He does name drop a bit but I don't think that should make a difference.

Overall, a good read and definitely the best book to date on wine and globalization.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Liquid Memory 11 Jan 2011
By A. Michael Latimer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In short I very much agree with Chambolle. I love terroir wines and especially Burgundy, and Section III of the book when he meets Roulot/Lafon/Roumier is excellent as he lets them do the talking, calmly commented by him and fascinating. I also thought his reviews of L'Atelier of Robuchon and Senderens struck a chord - I ate in each one once and never again - pretentious and over-priced. So there are parts of the book that are well worth reading and thought-provoking.

On the downside he does tend to name-drop and perhaps (for a non movie expert who thought he bought a book about why wine matters) does tend to put in too many movie director references and metaphors which meant nothing to me and eventually become tedious. If he wants to target that audience he needs to change the title of the book. At times his obsession with terroir does drift into the pseduo-intellectual-mystic and get mixed up with some fairly odd political views. Wine is after all only a drink as one of the great wine makers said...it is not a religion or the meaning of life.

For some reason the great terroirists often seem to be too angry and get too personal - Rosenthal does the same in his book and can at times come across as downright unpleasant. Only Lynch seems to be able to concentrate on the wines and producers and let them talk. Nossiter's dislike of Parker and Rolland also borders on the manic (rather like Alice Feiring - another promising book that goes over the edge).

Anyway, on balance I enjoyed reading the book and it spurred thought, even if I dont personally agree with all of his strong opinions. It is certainly one that deals with the issue of modern global winemaking with thought and intellect - I just wish that sometimes his own virulent dislikes did not surface so much. I also found it somewhat odd that he seems to lump Jancis Robinson in with Parker when the two of them had a much-publicised spat over Pavie. Robinson may now be a brand, but she is very much of the Johnson-Broadbent old school English palate and certainly does not appreciate or promote high alcohol fruit bombs.

His diatribe against the Spanish wine journalist also does seem a bit out of place, though if true I understand why he is upset.

Maybe the book is a bit too angry and at times a bit too intellectual/political. But it does provoke thought and he does make some very serious points about wine makers, ego-chefs and ego-wine-critics. And his love of Burgundy is real, and comes over very well indeed. It's at times irritating and at times weird, but I do think it's well worth the read if you are at all interested in the subject.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing 8 Jun 2012
By Mei Chun Lin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I fist saw the 2-hour theater version of Mondovino when it was first released in New York, excited about its perspective albeit faintly unsure about certain parts of the film, i.e. the ridicule of Robert Parker. Recently I had the chance to see the 10 hour-TV version of it and I had to say it did more justice to its subjects. The documentary prompted me to pick up Liquid Memory and being a filmmaker myself, it's amusing to read how Jonathan Nossiter drew comparisons from film (especially from European cinema) and literature. The book was obviously written by an intelligent and cultured person, who is knowledgable about the subject that is wine and passionate about his cause. I trully enjoyed reading the book and it nourished me in aspects of history about wine as well as film but there were parts that's veering on finger pointing did indeed make me pause to question about what French filmmaker Chris Marker said about his personal style of filmmaking as "All I have to offer is myself" and this tendency in the book that dare I say, at-times self-righteousness? I came across a review of the book that dubbed Nossiter as "the Michael Moore of wine" which was amusing in that while it accused the author of being an elitist(i.e. the drawing comparison to film and literature parts) it was also ignoring the fact that the author had stated multiple times that his intention was not to dictate but to encourage questioning. I found what made the 10 parts Mondovino and Liquid Memory intriguing is to encounter those faces of either the vignerons or the wine consultants and the wine critics and recognize the human emotions and human dramas.
Taste is after all a highly personal thing. I am very grateful to have encountered Mr. Nossiter's film and book that opened a door for myself to learn about wine, even though I don't agree with everything he said.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So disappointing!! 17 Dec 2009
By Arzurama - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to learn from someone who had traipsed the wine trails of the world and really knows his stuff. But Nossiter's "stuff" is so utterly OBSCURE!! I don't expect him to be commenting on the average American's everyday quaff (Not that there's anything wrong with that!), but when page after page is filled with names most of us will never see in any wine shop...even the BEST wine shops in our neighborhood...what's the point? Most of his observations about in-fighting amongst the Montilles or Yvonne Hegoburu's disappointment in her son's lack of interest in taking over the vineyards would be far better served in a wine snob blog. And I don't mean that in a snarky sense, only as a fact! And Nossiter's philosophy of terroir as more than soil, water, air, light...including such factors as time & place, who was there with you when you popped that '89 Volnay or Pommard...all I can say is "Well, DUH!" Don't we all know that? A nice Leonetti Red served on the deck of a cabin in the San Juan Islands is so much more than the sum of its grapes. All in all, I struggled through 100 pages before giving up. Too bad for all of us!
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