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.



What are you reading this summer?

What's your choice? Psychological suspense? Mysteries set in Paris? Cozy whodunits? Amateur sleuths? Freelance spies? Mossad agents? Esoteric thrillers?


For summer beach reading, we are running a deal on three of the Winemaker Detective series ebooks. They will be marked down 25% through June 25. [Deadly Tasting __title__ Deadly Tasting] (9781939474209) - A serial killer stalks Bordeaux. To understand the wine-related symbolism, the local police call on the famous wine critic Benjamin Cooker. The investigation leads them to the dark hours of France’s history, as the mystery thickens among the once-peaceful vineyards of Pomerol. [Cognac Conspiracies  __title__ Cognac Conspiracies](9781939474339) - The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he and his assistant Virgile have their loyalties tested. [Mayhem in Margaux __title__ Mayhem in Margaux] (9781939474421) - Summer brings the Winemaker Detective's daughter to Bordeaux, along with a heatwave. Local vintners are on edge, But Benjamin Cooker is focused on solving a mystery that touches him very personally. Along the way he finds out more than he'd like to know about the makings of a grand cru classé wine.

Low prices on these titles will be available on all major ebook platforms through June 25.

New Winemaker Detective Mystery in Bookstores

The Winemaker Detective Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile now join the illustrious list of cognac lovers, which includes Napoleon and rap star Nas. According The Wine Enthusiast, "Cognac has serious clout among discerning drinkers... Cognac is a hot commodity with crossover appeal for wine drinkers."

Authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen are not ones to disagree. The newestWinemaker Detective mystery is called Cognac Conspiracies.

The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. This amateur detective/cozy mystery, translated by Boulder-based translator Sally Pane, has a distinctly French flavor to it, as readers get an inside view of the French wine and, in this case, spirits, industry with a gentle mystery, and a lot of atmosphere.

It hits bookstores this week, so don't miss it. Click here to find it at a local bookstore.

"A delightful, frequently tongue-in-cheek excursion through the mysteries and politics of cognac production." —Live Journal

"So evocative of France, you can visit it in an afternoon without leaving home."

"The Winemaker Detective Mystery series is a new obsession."

"The descriptions of cognac and cigar scents and flavors drew me in as if I, too, were a connoisseur." —Librarian review

... let us know what you think of it.

Sirens of Suspense Interviews J.-P. Alaux and N. Balen

Chantelle over at Sirens of Suspense just interviewed Jean-Pierre and Noël, the authors of Cognac Conspiracies, which comes out this week, which is part of the ongoing Winemaker Detective mystery series. She begins with this question.

There are twenty-two books in the series so far (though only four published to date in the U.S.), as the series grows and evolves, do you find it easier or more difficult to fall into the story and discover new and exciting plots?

She goes on to ask them about their writing partnership, their other interests, having their books adapted for television, and what's in the works.

Click here to read the interview.

Cognac and Champagne?

The Winemaker Detective in Cognac

No, I'm not actually proposing that as a cocktail, although a classic champagne cocktail from Martha Stewart contains just that, along with bitters and a sugar cube. No, that's not for me. I already get glares and eye-rolling from some French friends because I like ice cubes in my champagne. One friend from Reims, the homeland of bubbly, treats it as blasphemy. But I digress.

My topic today is actually cognac and the region, because in our upcoming release, the Winemaker Detective goes to Jarnac, an haut lieu of cognac production. I mention champagne only because the region of Cognac is divided into six zones—Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and Bois ordinaires. A cognac blend made of Grande Champagne cognac and Petite Champagne cognac makes a Fine Champagne cognac. Of course, the drink cognac, as Grande, Petite or Fine a Champagne it may be, has nothing in common with the sparkling wine. Cognac is a brandy, distilled from wines made from specific grapes grown in specific areas of (primarily) the Charente and Charente-Maritime region of France. It goes through two distillations, in an alambic, and is aged in oak. Now you know.

In Cognac Conspiracies, the Chinese are trying to buy out one of France's oldest family-run cognac estates. Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books, and of course the waters are murkier than one first imagines. In this story, the characters find their loyalties being tested in an eerie small-town setting. In their usual fashion, the authors take us on an Epicurean adventure of discovery.

Jean-Pierre tells me that he has a special soft spot for both cognac and armagnac, both of which he usually enjoys with a cigar. As for cognac, he particularly enjoys those made by Delamain.


The official release date for Cognac Conspiracies is February 18. You can preorder it now on your favorite platform or at your favorite bookstore.


Winemaker Detective on Tour for New Release

With the upcoming release of our new Winemaker Detective title, Cognac Conspiracies, we've got another online tour in the works, thanks to France Book Tours. We're giving away a number of books, so do check it out. And please do explore these blogs.

Sunday, February 1
Review + Giveaway at The Discerning Reader

Monday, February 2
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Sunday, February 8
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Hook of a Book

Friday, February 13
Review + Giveaway at I Am, Indeed

Sunday, February 15
Review + Giveaway at It’s a Mad Mad World

Monday, February 16
Review + Giveaway at Mommasez…

Tuesday, February 17
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, February 19
Review + Giveaway at Deal Sharing Aunt

Friday, February 20
Review + Giveaway at Words And Peace

There are print and e-book giveaways. Go here for more information.

Winemaker Detective #Giveaways on BookTrib

We're very excited to announce five whole weeks of giveaways on BookTrib focussed on the Winemaker Detective series. This site calls itself "The lifestyle destination for book lovers," so if you don't already know about it, you're going to want to check it out. Scroll through the whole Click to Win list while you are there.

January 16 – 23: Treachery in Bordeaux 

January 23 – 30: Grand Cru Heist

January 30 – February 6: Nightmare in Burgundy

February 6 – 13: Deadly Tasting

February 13 – 20: Cognac Conspiracies

Goodreads #giveaway: Cognac Conspiracies

In the run-up to our new Winemaker Detective release, we're doing a Goodreads giveaway for Cognac Conspiracies. Check it out. Enter to win. Spread the word.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cognac Conspiracies by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Cognac Conspiracies

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends January 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win