Liquid Memory

Why is wine unique in its relation to memory? Because it is the only animate vessel of both personal memory - that of the drinker (or maker) and the subjectivity of his experience and the memory of that subjectivity - and communal history. That is, it is communal to the extent that a wine is also the memory of the terroir, which the wine expresses as an evolving, active taste. As communal memory, it is above all an expression of place as a communal identity, the history of the civilization of that place and the history of the relationship to its nature (especially soil, subsoil, and microclimate).


However, precisely because neither terroir, nor nature, nor men are fixed, and because a wine itself is destined to be consumed - to vanish - a wine of terroir is by its nature, an ultimately indefinable, unquantifiable agent of memory. This is a curse for relentless rationalists, unrepentent pragmatists, and all the busy codifiers of this world, anxious for absolutes. And a blessing for the rest of us.

Jonathan Nossiter, Liquid Memory. Why Wine Matters., Atlantic Books, London.


Jonathan Nossiter, ex-sommelier, is the film director who was responsible for the quite controversial film Mondovino, a movie that, shame on me, I still have not watched completely (here is the trailer). But I have read the book, twice even, and through his meetings with chefs, winemakers and others, Jonathan creates a world full of interesting questions. It is clear that he is not a fan of Michel Rolland or Robert Parker, and he criticises lots of things happening in today's wineworld, but I find him at his best when he tells me what he loves. As he travels from vineyard to vineyard, from kitchen to kitchen and from wineshop to wineshop he opens bottles that make me shiver with desire, and this is nice, not because I can't afford them, but because every one of them shows a unique personality that I can not share.

It's a book for winelovers like I think winelovers should be: open for new and old experiences, with a free mindset and a reluctancy to accept what other people tell them. Just like some of my friends...

And suddenly I feel less like writing about wine and more like talking. Let's call mom and see what's for supper, and then make the big decision: her cave or my cave ?