Rarely has a comic had such a major influence on reality as the words and images of Japanese manga-writing brother and sister duo, Shin and Yuko Kibayashi and veteran illustrator Shu Okimoto. The manga series Kami no Shizuku first saw the light of day in Japan in 2004, a French version – Les Gouttes de Dieu – has become an unexpected success and now the fifth volume is released in English under the name The Drops of God. And finally they have also arrived on Swedish soil.
The first time I came across The Drops of God was some years ago when my old wine buddy Roger Dorresteijn in Amsterdam sent me a copy. He was amazed by the tone in the books and the zealous accuracy with which the wines were presented. I was hooked from the minute I got the first volume in my hands. The English copy is somewhat tricky to get into at first as you have to read it from back to front, but it is worth the effort – beautifully illustrated and displaying an impeccable knowledge of some of the world’s most classic wineries, producers, wine personalities and bottles, this comic series is the perfect gateway to wine nerdery.
The comic didn’t take long to make a profound impact as wine interest in Asia escalated and orders of some of the more prestigious bottles featured in the volumes soared to volumes never before seen. After an issue with a mention of lesser-known producer Château Mont-Pérat came out, a Taiwanese importer sold 50 cases of Mont-Pérat in two days. Sales of Umberto Cosmo’s Colli di Conegliano Rosso also leaped 30 percent after being mentioned in the manga series, All Nippon Airways reported it had to recast the in-flight wine lists to accommodate the increased interest, and the little-known Bordeaux wine Château le Puy suddenly became significantly popular in Japan. In 2009 world-renowned wine magazine Decanter published a “power list,” ranking the most influential individuals within the wine world. The Kibayashi siblings entered at number 50 as the authors of one of the most influential wine publications for the past 20 years.
Not bad, but what’s the fuss all about, you might wonder? Well, the story is that of Kanzaki Shizuku who is about to inherit his father’s wine cellar, but on one condition – to be eligible for this enormously valuable inheritance he must correctly identify and properly describe 13 wines. The first 12 on the list are known as the “Twelve Apostles,” with the 13th known as the “Drops of God.” His father, a world-famous wine critic, had long since shunned his lazy son and his obvious disdain for the wine profession, and to his horror Shizuku learns that he is not the sole heir. In his disappointment, his father adopted a renowned wine critic named Toomine Issei, in the hope that he would prove a better son and a greater wine-lover than his own flesh and blood.
Despite a seemingly total ignorance of the intricacies of the trade, our young Kanzaki discovers a huge talent for it, displaying a nose and a palate that quickly become apparent. He sets out on an amazingly daring and entertaining journey to complete the challenge and snatch his rightful inheritance from under the nose of his new sibling nemesis.
Despite the fictional nature of the comic-book story, all the bottles listed in these volumes are drawn from the real world, and the selection is a delight for anyone slightly interested in wine. Nothing is spared in the choices from the creators, and nothing has escaped their attention – the illustrations of the bottles and characters are just divine. The Drops of God has certainly opened both the eyes and the taste buds of many fans to a whole new level of wine appreciation.
Alongside the selected 13 wines, there’s also a great list of other fantastic wines tasted and talked about by the characters that populate the volumes. Amazing to think that fictional characters have helped increase the sales and popularity of producers worldwide more than many wine journalists could. Nothing comical about that.
Some of the wines featured in The Drops of God that you can get your hands on in Sweden:
Château de Beaucastel (nr. 90089 – 651 kr)
Domaine Santa Duc Gigondas (nr. 74048 – 237 kr)
Casal di Serra, Umani Ronchi (nr. 12419 – 79 kr)
Jorio from Umani Ronchi is now replaced in Sweden by Tajano (nr. 6090 – 79 kr)
Text and image: Pär Strömberg