The Drops of God [beach reading]

“Dad’s reading a comic book!”

My kids thought it hilarious to see me reading Drops of God, the Japanese manga sensation that swept through Asia. Its alluring powers were even on display on the beach where my younger son wanted to me to read it to him though eventually he wandered off and resumed building sand castles. But if you are old enough to enjoy wine, the innovative, enthralling, soap opera for wine geeks will lure you in no matter if you’ve just cracked your first moscato or if you were weaned on Meursault. And it is perfect beach reading (as I can testify having selflessly read it in situ on your behalf).

The story’s protagonist, the young Shizuku Kanzaki, embarks on a quest laid out in his father’s will: to correctly identify twelve “apostles,” or heavenly wines that are the “drops of God” in title. Shizuku turned his back wine while his father was alive, rebuffing the beverage that made his father into a legend of the wine world as a critic as well as a fortune (he bought a lot en primeur and consulted to wineries, neither of which damaged his reputation as a critic, apparently). But his father always offered him things to smell and taste, which honed his sensory perception for his quest. Or contest, more aptly: Shizuku is pitted against Issei Tomine, just the sort of young, suave, arrogant, know-it-all who makes the perfect rival for Shizuku’s more passionate approach as he evolves swiftly from wine newbie to master. At stake, is the entire collection that the elder Kanzaki amassed over a lifetime, as well as the family’s grand house.

Along the way, wines are praised rapturously, both in two-page illustrated spreads as well as with lavish descriptions. Consider this one for the first of the “twelve apostles:”

I wander deep within a forest thick with pristine primeval growths,
As the humid scent of life wafts from the moss-covered trees,
I walk toward the heart of the forest in search of solace.
The bounteous blessing of nature suits a virgin forest unsullied by human hands
Ah, behold, a pair of violet butterflies, tangling in flight!
Perhaps this little spring is your Holy Land.

The two contestants parse the words and embark on a method of arriving at an answer to the riddle. Shizuku’s approach is more fun as he discusses it with friends, finagles ways to taste rarified wines, closing in on the region and village to ultimately make his pick. Along the way, he helps a woman with amnesia recover her past through a glass of wine, gets a tutorial from an eccentric wine expert who literally stores rarefied Burgundy in a hole in the ground, and squares off with a business rival in a blind tasting.

It’s easy to see how the books drove wine sales across Asia more than any wine critic who merely assigns anodyne point scores to wines. Drops of God succeeds at the highest level: not only does it inform and engage the reader through the narrative and illustrations, it makes you yearn to start your own quest, to research regions and producers while pulling some corks on fine bottles to share with friends.

Drops of God, Volumes 1 – 4, now available on Amazon in English. (aff link)

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16 Responses to “The Drops of God [beach reading]”

  1. Decanter called “Drops of God” more influential than Robert Parker in Asian wine markets.

  2. I had heard of the book some time ago but was unable to figure out how to get it. I now ordered the first volume from Amazon. It sounds sort of like a midschool approach to wine, but I’m interested in reading it.

  3. […] to Tyler Colman, Drops of God makes for a great beach read. (0) Comments […]

  4. Read each one in one sitting. A guilty pleasure of the highest order. Required reading. And Tyler, the beach sounds like the perfect terroir to dig in.

  5. The 4th one is out which contains episode 3 and 4. From what I can tell, book 5 is coming out in english in the fall entitled “the New World”. Whats wierd is that I think that that is not the order in which it was issued in Japan and France,and its skipping a big chunk of the story.

  6. There is a wine shop in Saratoga Springs that has that picture on their chalkboard, but I always thought they’d dreamt it up. Now I have to find this book!

  7. Yes, book 5 is skipping forward to the New World (Napa Valley definitely, and possibly Australia, too; I’m not sure). The end of book 4 has a statement saying this was per the authors’ request, to get the readers more interested. Also, if we keep buying it, the publisher said he would try to get more volumes out here! So keep buying it! It’s a great fun read, and educational, too. I’m looking forward to reading about Napa Valley wines and hopefully having more luck at finding the wines mentioned.

  8. The books are really good fun, and very intriguing to boot. I have found my self trying to decant wine the way Shizuku does in the book, in a thin ribbon from up high. Haven’t got the hang of it yet, but even a eighteen inches of air between decanter and bottle looks slick as hell. The Francophillia is a little grating to begin with, but the authors quickly develop a more diverse set of interests, expanding into Italian wines and beyond.

    There is just one moment in the third book I want to flag for anyone on the fence about this series. Both the hero and villain have purchased (coincidentally) a bottle each of Talbot. The villain has bought a bottle from a good year, our hero bought one from a bad year. The bad year was described as a performance by a local theater group, full of energy and excitement but clumsy and unpolished. The good year was described as a professional theater troupe, a polished performance showing years of training. If that isn’t one of the best descriptions of how vintage can affect wine, I would love to see the better one.

  9. This sounds like the perfect book to start reading this summer. Having a nice glass of wine and a good book to read at the beach, backyard patio, or the park is always a must for summer. I will pick it up soon and let my wine education begin!

  10. There’s also a subtitled version of the TV show floating around youtube. As you might imagine, everytime he tastes something good, there’s an “O” face & some sort of acid flashback. It’s hilarious, but sincere.

  11. Thanks for flagging that, Dave. The Times also ran piece on them a couple of years ago that highlighted the authors’ influence:

    In Japan, wine sellers grab copies of the magazine as soon as it comes out on Thursdays, quickly showcasing a featured wine in their stores or on their Web sites. According to Enoteca, a large chain, men in their 30s to 50s tend to ask for wines from the magazine, especially those priced around $30.

    The comic’s impact has been perhaps greatest in South Korea, where the Mont Perat and other wines like Emmanuel Rouget sold out after earning praise in its pages. On their first visit to South Korea last year, the Kibayashis were stunned to be greeted like stars. Television crews filmed their arrival at the Seoul airport and they were introduced to candidates during the presidential election.

  12. Philippe – Glad you liked it!

    RobinC & Bill Sweat – Definitely worth picking up a copy.

    Eric – Yes, thanks book 4 is available now too (just updated post to reflect this). Interesting they are skipping ahead to Napa.

    Cass – Really? That exact frame of him decanting? Funny coincidence since their are thousands of frames in the series.

    Thanks, Izandra.

    JKinder – yes, it’s reminiscent of the Txakoli pour! Great of you to flag those comparative tasting notes, which were actually helpful. Sometimes I found their descriptions overly florid to the point of not being actually useful (e.g. your waterfall is my spring meadow!)

    John – Yes, I think the series would be great for TV. Will have to look for the Japanese version on youtube.

  13. A question for all: did the small errors in the text detract from your enjoyment? I didn’t flag these items individually in my text, but I recall there being talk of a second (or third?) growth Bordeaux “moving up” in the 1855 classification, referring to the first growth Bordeaux as “premier cru” and Issei Tomine, the expert, telling Shizuku that the Mentzelopouloses had inherited Chateau Margaux rather than purchasing it. I thought there were a surprising number of errors that slipped through, given the books’ influence.

    But if the devil is in the details, God must be in the drops because the larger story is still a fun romp. I just wouldn’t use it as a sole text to study for the MW exam…

  14. search for “kami no shizuku” with english subtitles.

    Richebourg scene in episode 1 starts at 2m. money shot of the long decant at ~3:50… but stick around for Miyabi’s facemelt.

  15. […] and SPIT: The Drops of God The latest installment of The Drops of God, the wine-drenched graphic novel from Japan, is own in English. I review it and learn that this […]

  16. I got hooked last year with volume 1 — I’m a wine and manga liver. I’m always happy to see other bloggers talking about it — I have been trying to get the TX wine community to read it.


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