Like Joni Mitchell with “Woodstock,” sommelier and award-winning film director Nossiter (Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters, 2010) suggests that it’s time “to get back to the garden,” to an Eden that was lost to consumerism.
The author’s 2004 film Mondovino, a documentary on the world of wine that would continue to influence both his subject matter and his process, represented something of a turning point for him. He discovered that “spontaneous fermentation is possible,” for both wine and film, if one follows the best impulses that refuse to cater to the marketplace and the sort of additives—chemicals for wine, celebrity and commerce for filmmakers—that can deaden radical inspiration. This is a sequel of sorts to his previous book, and it reinforces the impression that sometimes a glass of wine is more than a glass of wine. As Nossiter rails against “the agro-cultural homogenization of branded wines,” he draws parallels with the culture at large, and film in particular. Where the likes of Fellini and Cassavetes once followed their own muses, modern filmmakers more often submit to the will of consumer society, becoming an accessory to the powers that be rather than an adversary. Ultimately, artists become nothing more than brands. Film critics, like wine journalists, are equally culpable, reinforcing standards that further rob the art of its vitality. Nossiter finds the natural wine movement filled with those who had pursued their passion in the arts (literary, dance, film, etc.) before finding that wine could both express and satisfy the artistic impulse. In reclaiming the value of the authentic and the sincere, terms trashed by critics and academics, the author also attacks “the coked-up contortions of Martin Scorsese’s self-consciously frenetic movement.” Even when Nossiter’s arguments don’t completely convince, his writing is always provocative and entertaining.
An audacious manifesto that restores the broken bond between culture and agriculture and finds vital inspiration for contemporary filmmaking in the natural wine movement.