Wine & Fiction

Most wine books are reference books, I own loads and use them all the time, but sometimes I just want to read a book about wine. Sadly most of them do not work that way. The number of wine books that I have been able to sit down and read, as I would a novel, have been few and far between.

It is out of print and my copy is long gone, but I remember Hugh Johnson’s first book – still his best in my opinion – ‘Wine’ with great affection and seem to remember reading it at a single sitting.

Jancis Robinson’s ‘Confessions of a Wine Lover‘ was a good read, as was ‘Wine & War‘ which dealt with the the German treatment of France’s wine industry during the occupation.

Patricia Atkinson’s ‘The Ripening Sun‘ was a lovely read that made me want to run away and create a vineyard of my own.

I also enjoyed ‘Phylloxera‘ and learned a great deal from it, but these are rare instances of books about wine that are not primarily for reference.

I would like more of these please, if any publishers are reading this, and more travel writing about wine regions and culture while we are about it – feel free to tell us about any that you know and love.

However, I am always surprised by how little fiction there is set around the world of wine – I cannot think of many such books at all. I once read a dreadful murder mystery set in a Port Lodge – the name escapes me sorry. I suppose that some of the books by Joanne Harris might count, but I have not tried them.

The other day I stumbled across this list of wine based fiction on Amazon, but do not know any of the books. I also came across this list, which overlaps somewhat, but is more extensive. Again I have not heard of many of the books and have read none of them, so cannot recommend them to you.

Strangely the only decent novel that I have read that has a wine setting does not appear on either list – ‘A Long Finish‘ by Michael Dibdin deals with a murder investigation in a Piedmont winery by his Venetian detective, Aurelio Zen.

I have always thought it strange that no one has created a detective series rooted in the wine industry. The closest thing so far has been Michael Bond’s hugely enjoyable, if somewhat silly, books about his gastronomic detective Monsieur Pamplemousse and his dog Pommes Frites.

Well, it seems that someone might now have plugged the gap. Recently I bought a copy of Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker. It is the second mystery in a series about the Police Chief in a small Dordogne town, he is an ex-soldier called Bruno Courrèges and is actually the entire Police department on his own.

The reviews are terrific, perhaps rather better than they should be, but it is fun. The backdrop deals with small town and rural France, with politics and people and attitudes to life. The actual mystery concerns GM crops and a huge multi-national wine company that wants to buy up all the vineyards in the valley – I wonder who that is meant to be?

I do not know enough about France to know if it is real – to me it appears to be a rose tinted spectacles, French-loving Brit’s view of rural France, but I might be wrong. Everything we love about France when we visit is here, the views are delightful, the people reasonable(!), the sense of community strong and every meal is an event. So, yes it is a bit cliched – even to the extent of accordion music to accompany the treading of the grapes, think Midsummer Murders in a beret – or kepi anyway.

However, it is set in the wine world, it is very enjoyable and whiles away a long train journey perfectly – which is all I wanted at the time.

11 thoughts on “Wine & Fiction

  1. I’ve read quite a few of the books you mentioned but never a murder mystery set in a vineyard, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

    Cheers!

    • Well, I hope that you enjoy it. It is only a bit of fun, not a great book! What are the others you have read?

  2. Dear Quentin:

    I discovered this article while googling “Pinot Noir Murder Mystery Series”, a name I want to register for my series of Sonoma County based noir murder mysteries.

    My first novel, “High Steaks” won the 2002 New Mystery Award (publsihed by Salvo Press and takes place, as the name indicates, in a restaurant). I’m working on a website and I’ll be registering “Pinot Noir Murder Mystery Series” with GoDaddy (after some more research). It’s nice to know a market for my wine-based murder mystery series is out there.

    Rob Loughran
    Windsor, CA

  3. Dear Quentin,

    I just came across your blog. I realize this blog was written some time ago, but I thought I would let readers know that there is a Wine Lover’s Mystery series available. I’m the author and have six books in the series published by Penguin. I am currently writing the seventh book in the series and hope that you will check them out. They are light and fun and I enjoy writing the series, which include Murder Uncorked, Murder by the Glass, Silenced by Syrah, etc… They are set in Napa Valley. i hope you enjoy!

    Cheers,
    Michele Scott

  4. I’m so pleased to have stumbled upon this post. I actually just finished my second wine-centric fiction manuscript and am excited to start the agent/publisher search process for both manuscripts. They are both dramatic fiction set in the same California wine industry that I worked in for nearly a decade. Glad to hear that I’m not the only person this genre interests immensely 😉

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  8. I can’t help but enter this discussion. Yes, there are wine fiction books. I have a database of nearly 600 wine fiction titles. I review these for the Wayward Tendrils Quarterly (www.waywardtendrils.com) under the column Wine Tales. I have also just begun a wine book review site, which includes wine fiction, at http://www.winelit.net. I’m happy to promote all wine writers.

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