I’m just going to come out and say it: The Initiates: A Comic Artist and Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs is one of the best books about wine I’ve ever read, period. How could I not be intrigued by the title? When I received an e-mail from publisher Nantier Beall Minoustchine asking if I’d like to receive a free copy, I said, “Hell yes!”
Etienne Davodeau is the comic artist and Richard Leroy is the wine artisan. Richard makes wine from Chenin Blanc at a small winery, Montbenault, in the Anjou region of France’s Loire Valley. Davodeau’s time in the vineyard is spent pruning and listening to Leroy explain small production farming, working organically and biodynamically, and the trials and travails of being an artisan in a world of commodified wines.
In return, Leroy attends comic conventions and sits in on editorial meetings with publishers. Both Davodeau and Leroy are inquisitive, and are able to bring a refreshing perspective to each other’s craft. Something about reading their discussions in an illustrated manner makes the impact of the book, and the understanding of the issues it raises, that much more profound. Like the images and words surrounding vine pruning:
Does Davodeau end up a better artist because of his wine experience? Does Leroy become a better winemaker after being exposed to the world of comics? Well the exchange is not about a quid pro quo. The Initiates illustrates the rewards of remaining curious and thoughtful when it comes to your life’s work, and what you can learn from others by listening and observing. Sometimes it may involve pruning shears and a vine; other times, a pen and paper. For anyone looking to break out of their personal and professional comfort zone, The Initiates is a well-illustrated inspiration.