Revealed: The Winemaker Detective and Winemaking

When you sip a glass of wine, how often do you think about the lives, tradition, craftsmanship,  and dumb luck involved in getting that beverage into your glass? Every year Mother Nature holds a new adventure for winemakers who, like goldsmiths, craft each harvest into a moment of pleasure captured in a glass.

 The tough life of a writer of wine mysteries: Induction ceremony to become members of the Gaillac Wine Brotherhood of the Dive Bouteille.

The tough life of a writer of wine mysteries: Induction ceremony to become members of the Gaillac Wine Brotherhood of the Dive Bouteille.

Readers of the Winemaker Detective series discover much about winemaking as an art. Each book in the series is, in fact, a wine tasting. As you read, you take a sip, and then a second one, until you climb into the glass and become completely immersed in the drink, surrounded by the land where it was made, and the people who made it. 

Each book is written to honor winemakers and set in a place that is constantly changing. The world of Bordeaux is light years away from that of Burgundy. Who could possible put Alsatian wines in the same category as Loire Valley wines? This mystery series is an initiation, with stories we hope will stay with readers for a long time. 

 Noël Balen, Jean-Pierre Alaux, and Anne Trager at the Lisle Noir crime fiction festival.

Noël Balen, Jean-Pierre Alaux, and Anne Trager at the Lisle Noir crime fiction festival.

Clearly, the authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen love wine. They love the France that is far from the beaten path, where people are struggling to make exceptional vintages, despite the blows dealt by fate, hail, or drought. We asked Jean-Pierre and Noël a couple of questions.

Where do you find your inspiration for the series as a whole?

Exploring the universe of wine is a little like taking a long journey. The more you taste, the more you go out and discover wine regions, the more there is to marvel at. Exploring the diversity of wines found in France is a humbling experience. We draw our inspiration from immersing ourselves in this world. With each novel, we visit a climate, a type of winemaker, and new natural environment. It’s an adventure, and we discovered that the world of wine has ways of doing things that are not always very orthodox. When we began the Winemaker Detective series, we had no idea how complex this world would be nor the failings we would find behind the scenes of the fine châteaux, which hide very human weaknesses.

Tell us something about the two characters central to this mystery series?

Before we even outlined Treachery in Bordeaux, the first whodunit in the series, we sketched the characters who would drive the plot. We began with Benjamin Cooker, a winemaker by profession, of British descent who had been living in the Médoc region in France for many years. He has an international reputation and his skills are recognized the world over. His sidekick Virgile went to winemaking school in Bordeaux. He has youth and a Cartesian mind, with a strong connection to his country roots. They are a tandem that combines two generations and two ways of approaching wine, working in a world where Mother Nature dictates fate and where traditions and myths still have a strong hold.

 CLICK TO DISCOVER OR BUY THE WHOLE WINEMAKER DETECTIVE SERIES

CLICK TO DISCOVER OR BUY THE WHOLE WINEMAKER DETECTIVE SERIES

Big Thrill: Translating the Winemaker Detective Series

 Wine, mystery and France

In this month's issue of Big Thrill, Anne Trager answers Kay Kendall's questions (listed below) about translating the Winemaker Detective series. Go here to read the answers.

 

  • Each book in the Winemaker Detective series is not only a mystery but an homage to wine and the art of making it. Has the series’ growing number of international readers begun to influence the mysteries’ plots?
  • Do Alaux and Balen themselves read English well? If so, do they ever quibble with your translations in any detail?
  • As the translator of the Winemaker Detective series, you are responsible for bringing these mysteries successfully across the Atlantic to American readers. What are the challenges you have faced in bridging the two cultures in your translations?
  • You are an American by birth but have chosen to live in France for more than two decades. How has that influenced your choice of books to introduce to the United States?
  • Is there a difference in how American and French readers respond to these mysteries? Do different aspects of the novels appeal to one culture more than another?
  • Benjamin Cooker is the winemaker turned sleuth and his assistant is Virgile Lanssien. How would you characterize each of them and what is their working relationship like?
  • You have described this series as cozy. How do you balance the need for drama with the need to keep the plots on the far side of gory?

The Winemaker Detective Series

 

Will there be Beaujolais Nouveau this year?

This year, November 19 is Beaujolais Nouveau Day around the world—the day the year's new wine goes on sale. Why that day? In France, the law says that appellation d'origine contrôllée (AOC) wines cannot be sold before mid-December. But in 1951, Beaujolais vintners made a fuss and the regulations were loosened so that primeur wines from the region could be sold a good month before other AOC wines. That and some good marketing led to the global phenomenon that Beaujolais Nouveau has become. With Backstabbing in Beaujolais coming out just in time, Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen tell us some more about the wine.

Beaujolais could, in some ways, be considered a minor wine, without any great aromatic complexity. Some may even go so far as to say that its only merit stems from the name of a town in the region of Beaujolais: Saint Amour, or Saint Love. How can any region with a town named like that attract animosity? 

Of course, in France and around the world, Beaujolais is much more than that, and it has a day all to itself when the wine is celebrated around the world. In Toulouse, they may prefer a Gaillac primeur, and there are other regions trying to get a piece of the action: Côtes du Rhône, Tourraine. You also find vino novello in Italy. But it's Beaujolais that is celebrated from from Paris to Tokyo and New York to Berlin.

Everyone, there are different descriptions of its aromas—sometimes you'll hear about bananas, other times cassis, or wild strawberries. But in the end, it doesn't really matter. What does is the celebration.

We owe the worldwide renown of Beaujolais Nouveau to a single man with fine understanding of marketing: Georges Duboeuf. He produces up to thirty millions bottles of it every year, flooding markets in France and abroad. He and his two friends Paul Bocuse and Jacques Troisgros knew how to talk about Beaujolais in very flattering terms. And in the end, the wine has a reputation that has little to do with its intrinsic qualities.

Two October Book Giveaways

Don't miss this month's book giveaways.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Backstabbing in Beaujolais by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Backstabbing in Beaujolais

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends November 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume

White Leopard

by Laurent Guillaume

Giveaway ends November 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway