After having written some fifteen award-winning books on the wonderful world of wine, professional sommelier Jacques Orhon has embarked on self-fiction on an oenological background. His very first novel, The fruits of exile, shows the fate of several generations of European immigrants and a personal quest that is stronger than anything.
While reporting in the Niagara Peninsula, Stéphane Almeida, a photographer at the peak of his career, is preparing for a very important meeting. He hopes, once and for all, to finally get to know his father and unravel family history.
This great quest is portrayed by telling the story of several generations of European immigrants who left for the New World in the hope of a better life. It takes place against a backdrop of vineyards, grands crus, historic towns, gastronomic pleasures and music … pleasures dear to the author.
Jacques Orhon, a smiling, generous man, a connoisseur of the oenological treasures of the planet and a musician in his spare time, talks enthusiastically about his first novel – a project long kept secret.
It was only a matter of time before he embarked on a work of fiction. The project took him two years of work and was completed before the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has forced him to cut short a trip and return home in a disaster.
“This book was so central to me while I was writing … I got into it, I had a blast, I had a blast, but I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard, in 31 years of writing, through all the books. Wow! It was huge, he comments. And for nine, ten months, I didn’t tell anyone about it. “
Write, his way
Yet when he had the whole plot of the book in mind, it all fell into place. “Not that inspiration came so easily, but the stories fit together, one with the other. It was a huge satisfaction to find out that I could go in that direction and that I no longer had any technical constraints. I could describe everything, my way. ”
The idea of someone offering a cellar of 2,000 bottles of wine for 2020 came to his mind first. Then he wanted to invent the story of Stéphane, immigrant grandson whose father has disappeared. “I’ve nurtured a lot of Stéphane’s life – how he’s going to build himself through my own life experiences.”
A little, a lot of him
There is a lot of Jacques Orhon in Stéphane, with the difference that he had a happy childhood, that he was brought up by “quite wonderful” parents and that he has always known his father. But this is a transmission book, he says.
“The love of wine that the grandfather passes on to his grandson is my father. He did the same thing, without him realizing it. At the age of nine, I was fascinated by the bottles of wine in the cellar. Seeing my fascination, my father had decreed that I would become the butler of the house. “
Jacques Orhon, who has lived in Quebec for 45 years, has also visited all the places he describes in his novel. This takes place partly in Portugal, a country where, very young, he had “like a revelation”.
He also talks about exile – something he doesn’t think necessarily means anything negative. “I believe that being gone gives us great strength and at some point, when you’re good at what you’re doing, you reap the fruits of your exile.”
And what wine should we drink to enhance the pleasure of reading? Jacques Orhon relishes his answer. “The wine you love!”
♦ Jacques Orhon is a master sommelier and founder of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.
♦ He is also a teacher, lecturer, expert in tasting and wine globetrotter.
♦ He has published around fifteen books on the world of wine and received several prestigious awards.
“One afternoon, Lorenzo and Marina took Stéphane to Marsala. As he crossed Piazza della Repubblica, he was fascinated by the old-fashioned charm that emanated from the Baroque architecture of the buildings that surrounded it and the tranquility of this old city little frequented by tourists. He had the strange feeling of being in a movie set, but in the company of real characters and not of actors and extras. “