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: Sally Pane on Translating

Sally Pane, who has translated a number of the Winemaker Detective mysteries, appears in this month's Big Thrill magazine, talking about her latest adventure translating Flambé in Armagnac.

 Translator Sally Pane

Imagine yourself in a corner of France, with its customs and history, its Armagnac and duck confit. Then add some mystery. That was my world as I translated FLAMBE IN ARMAGNAC, the French title of this latest installment in the Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. READ THE REST HERE.



From Page to Screen

Flambé in Armagnac by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen is part of the Winemaker Detective series that has been adapted for television in France. It is the eighth episode in the series "The Blood of the Vine," which was filmed in April 2012 in a variety of locations in southwestern France, including the following:

  • Labastide d'Armagnac
  • Barbotan-les-Thermes
  • Ognoas d'Arthez-d'Armagnac estate
  • The Gers region
  • Vineyards around Bordeaux. 

At the time, the newspaper Le Sudouest interviewed French actor Pierre Arditi, who plays the winemaker detective in the series. I've translated some of the interview below:

What appealed to you about playing in this series?

It's an atypical series, as it focusses on wine, vineyards, and terroir. This world and its beautiful landscapes calm me and reassure me. And I like the main character a lot...

What sticks with you after the shooting?

The Armagnac estates, the landscapes, and the vineyards. It was like being on vacation, in the pure sense of the word: a vacation of the mind, with all your senses awakened. Work and pleasure mingled.

What struck you the most while making this episode?

The Place Royale in Labastide-d'Armagnac subjugated me. It is magnificent.... We also shot at the Ognoas estate, which was just as remarkable. I tasted some fine Armagnacs there. 

Are you a Gascon at heart?

I believe you are born a Gascon, and you can't become one, but you can be adopted by the people of Gascony if you are attached to the land, the people and the terroir. 


Can't wait for another Winemaker Detective fix?

Looking for some irony, food, wine, and passion, all rolled into one? Need another fix of your Winemaker Detective obsession?  Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile have another adventure in French vineyards. The print version is planned for August, but we bumped up the Kindle release so readers could access it sooner for all those midsummer readers who enjoy a good mystery set in a foreign clime.

GET IT NOW

In the heart of Gascony, a small town holds fiercely onto its secrets after a fire ravages the warehouse of one of Armagnac's top estates, killing the master distiller. Wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to estimate the value of the losses, but he and his assistant Virgile want to know more. How did the old alembic explode? Why is the estate owner penniless? How legal are his dealing? The deeper the Winemaker Detective digs, the more suspicious characters he uncovers. There is more than one disgruntled inhabitant in his small town. As we witness the time-honored process of Armagnac distillation and the day-to-day activities of the hunt, the market place, and the struggle for power and duck confit, we get a glimpse of the traditions of southwestern France, where mystery and possible murder lie below the surface.


The Winemaker Detective Guide to France on Shelf Pleasure

 Gourmet sleuth in wine country.

If you want to follow the Winemaker Detective's footsteps in French wine country, check out this blog post at Shelf Pleasure. This is a great book lover's online destination. And the blog covers some highlights not to miss in France: Anne Trager, translator and founder of the publishing house Le French Book, pulled together a guide to some top spots to visit and tipple in France from the gourmet sleuth Winemaker Detective series­. As authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen say, “each book is a homage to a wine and a wine region,” and the rich details take readers there with or without a plane ticket.

June Book Giveaways

This month, we are happy to give away a sneak preview to two of our late summer titles. Don't miss your opportunity to win advance review copies of Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen's Flambé in Armagnac, and Anne-Laure Thiéblemont's The Collector. We also couldn't resist giving away a few more copies of Shadow Ritual since it's a great summer read.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flambé in Armagnac by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Flambé in Armagnac

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends June 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Collector by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont

The Collector

by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont

Giveaway ends July 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti

Shadow Ritual

by Eric Giacometti

Giveaway ends July 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

May Book Giveaways

This month, you can enter to win Mayhem in Margaux at France Book Tours, and you can also participate in the following Goodreads book giveaways—we've got four of them going. There's something for everyone: a Freemason thriller with esoteric secrets and international intrigue, a historic conspiracy roller-coaster ride of a novel, and two gourmet sleuth Winemaker Detective novels, including an advance review copy of the next one in the series.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Shadow Ritual by Eric Giacometti

Shadow Ritual

by Eric Giacometti

Giveaway ends May 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Morgenstern Project by David S. Khara

The Morgenstern Project

by David S. Khara

Giveaway ends May 22, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mayhem in Margaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Mayhem in Margaux

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends May 16, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Flambé in Armagnac by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Flambé in Armagnac

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends May 25, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win