Vachement cool! The hit French mystery drama, Blood of the Vine (Le Sang de la Vigne) is back on telly in the US, and that’s not all. New episodes are on their way!
Leave the mean streets of Paris to les flics of Braquo, put the eerie French town full of Les Revenants behind you, and journey to vineyards in the Aquitaine and other regions of France for the fine wines and unsavory murders of Blood of the Vine (Le Sang de la Vigne).
Based on “The Winemaker Detective Series“ by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, Blood of the Vine takes you on a tour through grand vineyards and sumptuous châteaux from Bordeaux to Champagne and tempts you with vintage wines and cognacs, all while you follow a wine connoissseur who happens also to be an amateur but expert detective.
Pierre Arditi (Sauveur Giordano, The Horseman on the Roof) stars as Benjamin Lebel, a sophisticated and world-renowned enologist who uses his extensive knowledge of wine and spirits, his highly-trained taste buds and olfactory senses, and his keen insights into human nature, to both consult for vintners and solve crimes.
Occasionally assisting him are his protégé Silvère (Yoann Denaive, Terre de Lumière), lab manager Mathilde (Catherine Demaiffe, A Place on Earth), and girlfriend and fellow wine expert France Pelletier (Claire Nebout, Nicolas Le Floch), while Commander Barbaroux (Vincent Winterhalter, Spiral) of the Bordeaux Police calls on Lebel for help with cases.
Stateside mystery fans got their first taste of Blood of the Vine when it debuted last year, and the series has become one of the most popular for MHz Networks. The eight episodes that comprise the first two seasons have aired to date, and the four that make up the third will premiere in the US next month.
Before getting to those, here’s a recap of the stories in Seasons 1 and 2:
The pilot episode, “The Tears of Pasquin” (“Les Larmes de Pasquin“), finds Benjamin working on his latest wine guide until Barbaroux interrupts and asks the enologist to identify the terroir and vintage of the wine found at a murder scene. The wine, one filled wine glass, and eleven empty ones are the only clues, but then another victim is found, this time with the same wine and two of twelve wine glasses filled.
Lebel travels to Jarnac in “The Coup of Jarnac” (“Le Dernier Coup de Jarnac“) to discuss an audit with the owners of Château Aludel. They refuse to grant him access to their accounts and stock, but his trip is not for naught, as he unexpectedly runs into old flame, Shirley. Their happy reunion is short-lived, though, after her close friend, cognac genius and Château Aludel co-owner Baptiste Aludel, is found dead in the lake.
To Lebel’s surprise, his daughter Margaux is in Bordeaux with a new lover and a new job at Château Barfleur in “Margaux’s Robe” (“La Robe de Margaux“). His intuition tells him something isn’t quite right, and when a suspicious car accident leaves the young lovers in hospital, Benjamin investigates the sabotage while being threatened by the château’s new mobster owner.
And Lebel is on a “Mission in Pessac” (“Mission à Pessac“) after his friend and former assistant Denis, who co-owns Château Erlange with his wife, is attacked and the wine barrels are contaminated. Other acts of presumed sabotage have occurred, but could Madame Newman, whose family was forced to sell Château Erlange years ago, be so intent on regaining it that she would resort to crime?
We learn that Lebel is a court expert in the Season 2 opener, “A Question of Brandy… or Death” (“Question d’Eau de Vie… ou de Mort“), when he and Silvère investigate the Héliac case. The fire at the estate of armagnac producer Baron Castayrac killed the stock master and destroyed the brandy distillery and stock room, and the baron is anxious for everything to be sorted so he can get the much-needed insurance money. The thing is, the fire wasn’t an accident.
In “Golden Wedding in Sauternes” (“Noces d’Or à Sauternes“), an elderly couple stop by Lebel’s book-signing to ask him to appraise their stock of Sauternes. Silvère and Mathilde go in his stead, only to find the husband and wife dead, the 40 bottles of vintage wine missing, and themselves murder suspects.
“Drinking and Setbacks in the Loire Valley” (“Boire et Déboires en Val de Loire“) occur after Benjamin agrees to help the famous and reclusive actor, Léo Delhomme, select wines for a charity auction. Before the task is complete, Lebel’s friend, a journalist investigating the supposed accidental shooting death of Delhomme’s wife, is deliberately shot and killed, and Benjamin, France, and Mathilde could be the next victims.
And in “The Silky Widows” (“Les Veuves Soyeuses“), newly-widowed Alice Vonnelle takes over as the head of Champagne Vonnelle and insists that a special vintage be created in honor of her recently-deceased son. For this she turns to Benjamin, who accepts the challenge — one of many, including getting the harvest in on time and solving seemingly unrelated murders.
Guest stars in the first two seasons include Arditi’s daughter Rachel Arditi (Les Gazelles) and wife Evelyne Bouix (Edith and Marcel), Marisa Berenson (I Am Love), Féodor Atkine (The Pillars of the Earth), Patrick Bouchitey (The Count of Monte Cristo), Christian Vadim (Medical Emergency), and my fave of the bunch, Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen).
Which brings us now to Season 3…
In “The Scam of Saint-Vivant” (“Du Raffut à Saint-Vivant“), Benjamin and Mathilde find themselves in the midst of a family argument and then a hailstorm at the Ubayre estate in Beaune. Complicating matters is Lebel’s discovery of a dead body in the vineyards.
A tasting at Château du Clos de Vougeot goes horribly awry in “Nightmare In Cotes-De-Nuit” (“Cauchemar en Côtes-de-Nuits“) after a participant is poisoned and more murders follow.
Benjamin and Silvère go to Alsace after the journalist investigating a local businessman is found dead near Colmar, and the detective links the enologist to both individuals in “Late Vengeance In Alsace” (“Vengeances Tardives en Alsace“).
Lastly, Benjamin and France must solve “The Mystery of the Yellow Wine” (“Le Mystère du Vin Jaune“), in which plots owned by Roch Orgelet seem to be reasons for murders.
With mysteries solved, it’s clear that enologist Lebel is also one heckuva detective. His talent for deducing the motives, means, and opportunities of crimes is right up there with his skill in discerning the obvious and subtle qualities of wines.
And like all good whodunits, Blood of the Vine‘s storylines are intricate, characters are developed enough to be engaging, and conclusions are both believable and natural. But plot devices and settings are what set this series apart from others in the genre.
Woven throughout each episode, from the first death to the final unmasking of the killer, are insider tidbits about the wine and spirits business, such as accounting for evaporation and cleansing the body as well as palate for tastings. And with stories set amidst verdant vineyards, where the biggest crime should be no greater than the wasting of a grand cru, viewers are transported from the mundane to the magnifique of life among the vines.
The four new Season 3 episodes will screen at 9 PM on Sundays, from the 2nd through the 23rd of November 2014.