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.
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.