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Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters Hardcover – October 13, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374272573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374272579
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,705,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nossiter made the wine world documentary Mondovino, and his first impassioned, personal book is a discursion into the slippery relationships between wine, taste, power and memory. The author is particularly eager to take on the vinicultural powers that be. Drawing on lifelong personal and professional experience with these ideas, the author travels to Paris and Burgundy, from small wine shops to a multinational, franchised wine emporium, through restaurants of varying reputation and public regard, and finally onto a tour of Burgundian vignerons. The entire time, Nossiter debates constantly with various professionals about such matters as consumption-driven culture, contemporary wine criticism and the importance of place—also known as terroir—not just in wine but in culture generally. There are amusing scenes with such notables as Michelin-starred chef Alain Senderens and deft comparisons, such as the equation of a critic like Robert Parker to another decider, Dubya himself. The quixotic approach, with such frequent tactics as film comparisons, meets with mixed success, at regular risk of losing the reader. It's a book equally intriguing and irritating, and one feels that the author wants it that way. (Oct.)
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“In the two-thousand-year history of writings on food and wine, Liquid Memory is unique. It is not for everyone. It is for people who find not just liquid in a bottle, but an excess of meaning. Who find history and identity. Who find their fathers and origins of civilization and Chet Baker and black-and-white movies and inexplicable stirrings of love. Frankly this book is for people who have no idea why they are so affected. But they will understand more once they have finished reading—in all likelihood, in one sitting. In fact, I’ll put myself right out there and declare that this is the greatest book ever written about wine and that I cannot imagine coming across a more resonating or important one before I die. Samuel Beckett meets Martin Scorsese meets Malcolm Lowry meets dirt meets a poet named Fermentation. Bravo, Nossiter!” —Bill Buford, author of Heat

“In Jonathan Nossiter’s Liquid Memory, there is a passionate, urgent message for all of us: our individuality, our pleasure, and our power all grow out of our own personal taste. Nossiter gives readers the courage to sidestep the arbiters of taste and write their own definition of the sublime.” —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

Liquid Memory is a call to the barricades. Jonathan Nossiter makes a heartfelt plea for all of us who love wine to defend our right to enjoy its pleasures on our personal terms. Full of ideas and opinions, all leavened by the most sympathetic of recollections of idiosyncratic wines, friends, and family, this book will surely stimulate both novice and expert alike to reclaim our individual right to choose.” —Neal I. Rosenthal, author of Reflections of a Wine Merchant

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Customer Reviews

2.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Chambolle VINE VOICE on October 24, 2009
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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy S. Block on February 22, 2010
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Michael Latimer on January 10, 2011
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 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.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Arzurama on December 16, 2009
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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