The crime fiction lovers’ guide to wine tasting

We recently announced a new book in translation with a gentleman detective solving crimes in vineyards. We’re very excited about this series, called Sang de la Vigne in French. It is very popular in France and is being adapted to television, attracting an audience of four to five million at every airing. The French love their wine! And so does Le French Book.

We’re calling it the Winemaker Detective series. The first in the series, which we are now calling Treachery in Bordeaux in English, sets the stage for the other books in the series. The most recent—number nineteen—came out last week. The twentieth is scheduled for fall.

Treachery in Bordeaux establishes the characters. The protagonist, Benjamin Cooker, is in his fifties, at the top of his career and has a distinguished English gentleman veneer. His sidekick, Virgile, is the young, handsome, sexy one who is still deferent in this first book, but who grows into his own later. Benjamin is thewinemaker par excellence, whose vocation is to help wine estates around France and elsewhere to make great wines. What better pretext for a detective series?

I had coffee with one of the authors Jean-Pierre Alaux a couple of weeks ago and he explained the genesis of the series: “The idea took shape during a meal with Noël, after more than a few glasses of wine. We were criticizing television series in general, and particularly the type with the same kind of police inspectors every time. So we imagined one that would revolve around crime, but without the police. We first thought of it for television.”

This is when they came up with this main character who is a winemaking consultant, giving him a reason to be behind the scenes in wine estates anywhere in the world. As Jean-Pierre says, “The world of wine is no more respectable than the world of finance. There’s money, there’s deceit and there’s nature, which always has the last word. A hailstorm can wipe out an entire harvest. The world of wine has all the requirements for a detective novel: death, crime, inheritance, jealousy. You name it, all human weaknesses are present.”

And what fun it must be to write, visiting wine estates and tasting fine wines! Jean-Pierre assures me that anytime they mention the good things about a wine in one of the books that they use the real names of estates, making this series a kind of crime fiction lovers’ wine tasting guide. He also guaranteed that wherever there is crime and evildoing in a wine estate, they have changed the names!

Jean-Pierre gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about this series. He is the grandson of a winemaker and exhibits a real passion for wine and winemaking. For Jean-Pierre, there is no greater common denominator than wine.