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Peter Mayle is a native Brit who abandoned a successful advertising career and reinvented himself as a best-selling author and novelist. He has been writing about the good life in the South of France for over fifteen years. Critics have praised his books, both fiction and nonfiction, calling the writer "the world's foremost literary escape artist” because of his knack for setting his colorful yarns in a locale one magazine called "the most enticing place this side of paradise.” Mayle's first book, a memoir called A Year in Provence, has sold over five million copies (in 28 languages) since its publication in 1991.

It was over a bottle of Provençal wine that Mayle (who lives full-time in the Luberon area of Provence) and filmmaker Ridley Scott (who has maintained a vacation home and vineyard there for fifteen years) came up with the idea for Mayle's breezy 2004 novel A Good Year. "Ridley used to work in the commercials business and I used to work in the advertising agency business in London,” Mayle recounts about his early history with the filmmaker; their friendship stretches back to London's advertising world of the 1970s. "He was about the best there was, so we would always use his company for shooting commercials if we could afford him. We worked together intermittently in London, and then he went off and did movies and I went off and (wrote) books.”

Almost three decades later, Scott and Mayle had a memorable lunch. "Ridley arrived with a newspaper clipping which reported on new wines in Bordeaux – ‘garage' wines – which commanded huge prices without a chateau or pedigree. Yet, people paid a fortune for them.”

"I saw this piece in the newspaper business section of the Times about a vineyard in France that was selling garage wine for over £30,000 a case,” Scott recounts about the 1996 clipping, which he still keeps in his files in London. "I was looking for an excuse to come back to France to shoot a film, and this story idea offered the perfect opportunity. "I bounced this idea off Peter Mayle and he said, ‘That would make a good novel,'” Scott remembers. "And I said, ‘You write the book, then I'll get the film rights.' So, he wrote the book, which was successful.”

Mayle labored at his laptop for nine months in 2003, researching the subject in both in his adopted Provence and in one of the world's renowned wine regions, Bordeaux, on France's Atlantic coast. Le Pin, located in the appellation called Pomerol, cultivates what many believe to be the best Merlot on the planet.

In the meantime, Scott went off to Morocco and Spain to film his epic saga, "Kingdom of Heaven.” A month after the author turned in his manuscript, a deal was finalized for the film rights – and Scott and Mayle were back in business together.

Scott also suggested the book's (and film's) title. "A winemaker has a difficult life. But if he gets it right, he's had a good year,” says the filmmaker. "That's what a French winemaker will say: ‘It's been a good year.'”

Scott chose New York native Marc Klein ("Serendipity”) to adapt Mayle's novel for the screen. Klein admits that when he accepted Scott's offer, he knew nothing about wine or Provence. Scott advised Klein to visit the South of France to conduct research and get a flavor of the area. Klein visited Provence in 2004, met with Peter Mayle, and spent almost a year researching the region and the wines.

Adapting Mayle's novel provided Klein with some formidable challenges. "Peter writes books that are like travelogues,” says the screenwriter. "They're more about atmosphere – the kind of book one likes to read on vacation, where you want to be swept away to a certain place. We needed to provide additional narrative structure on it. At the same time, we wanted to give moviegoers the same experience they would have reading the book.”


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