Having just started into the book, it is already clear that it will be a stimulating but occasionally irritating read. Irritating because Nossiter uses unqualified, bracketed asides such as 'political correctness is nothing less than a voluntary suppression of one's own tastes', which sounds initially impressive until further inspection shows it to be vacuous. Or this – 'But the biting cold of a recent November morning doesn't remind me of my childhood. This kind of extreme temperature is the pure product of twenty-first century global warming. Nossiter may be right but I'd be surprised if metrological records didn't show some very cold November days 50 or a 100 years ago.
He does, however, have some interesting things to say about terroir – talking both about Burgundian terroir and that of New York. Nossiter dismisses wine guides. 'This book is not a guide. I'm against wine guides and against a culture that induces us to submit our own tastes to the perverse rule of self-proclaimed experts. After all, would you leave your sexual tastes in the hands of a guru?'
This dismissal gives Nossiter a problem as he is just 19 pages into a 262 pages book on wine and why it matters. His declaration 'So you could call this an involuntary guidebook, from not so much a reluctant guide as a guide with no pretense other than to offer a tour of his personal experience' doesn't entirely get Nossiter out of his self-constructed hole.
I will make further posting on this book, in particular his comments about Charles Joguet and the notion of branding.
Jonathan Nossiter: Liquid Memory – why wine matters, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, $26, hbk, ISBN: 978-0374-27257-9