The Story Behind The Winemaker Detective by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noel Balen

It all began while we were sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose. During the dinner, our conversation heated up as we discussed fiction adapted for television. Quickly, we came to the realization that there were no series that mixed elements of France’s cultural heritage with a mystery plot, that there were no recurring characters that brought together terroir—local history and tradition and flavor—and whodunit. What we needed was a fictional hero involved in the wine industry, one of the most renowned areas where the French excel. We needed The Winemaker Detectivea character that could be mobile, that could go from one region to another, could touch on all the various aspects of winemaking, from grape growing to bottling, and that it could be none other than a winemaker, an oenologist, an expert who in and of himself symbolizes both the knowledge and the way of life.

Two days later, in an afternoon of sitting in front a fire, with Armagnac and Havana cigars, we outlined the series, noting down the full, extremely detailed pedigree of our hero, the Franco-British Benjamin Cooker (the name was chosen due to the historical bonds and winemaking traditions that link Great Britain to France), with a precise outline of his family and colleagues. Then we came up with a list of wines and wine regions that we dreamed about. We imagined the wines and the landscapes that made us want to push this adventure further.

Twenty-three books later, we have established a pace that allows us to produce two novels a year. We are always happy to meet with our Winemaker Detective characters time and time again. The production schedule may seem intense, but we now have to supply enough literary material for the screenwriters to adapt to the successful, large-audience television series. Every time we open a bottle, we raise a glass to Benjamin Cooker and his accomplices, who are now among our friends. Without this complicity, we would never have been able to write so many books together.


Jean-Pierre Noel BalenJean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, wine lover and music lover respectively, came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series while sharing a meal, with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996, a red wine from Cahors with smooth tannins and a balanced nose. The series has 24 titles to date and is a hit TV series in France. So far 10 have been translated. Jean-Pierre Alaux currently lives in southwestern France and Noël in Paris. They both are full-time writers and participate in the TV adaptation of their series.

Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado. She has translated several titles in this series.

And Anne Trager has a passion for crime fiction that equals her love of France. After years working in translation, publishing and communications, she founded the mystery and thriller publishing house Le French Book, dedicated to picking top mysteries and thrillers from France and translating them into English.

Their latest book is the cozy mystery, The Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus.

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