I’m the first to admit that I’m no oenophile, in spite of the years we lived in Northern California when we wandered the wineries of Napa, Sonoma, and even the tiny boutique arbors scattered through the Santa Cruz Mountains (the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. – traumatized? who me? – had us fleeing not only the state, but the whole country; we moved to London before the year was out).
I’m sure my palate is just not that sophisticated, but nevertheless, I gleefully imbibed this manga series. I’m not alone – with three volumes out Stateside thus far, Drops began hitting the ever-coveted New York Times bestseller list for manga with its English debut volume last fall. It’s already been a major success around the world, affecting not only the publishing industry, but wine sales around the world! Volume 1 boasts quite a stamp of approval: Decanter Magazine insists, “Arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years!” Yup, you read that right! A manga!!!
Here’s the basic story: Shizuku Kanzaki has never tasted wine, a supreme irony as his late father, Yutaka Kanzaki, was an internationally renowned wine critic and collector. He’s been estranged from his famous parent, purposefully keeping a clear distance from his far-reaching legacy; Shizuku’s chosen a career selling beer instead! But now he’s called to the family mansion for the reading of the will, which his father has titled “The Drops of God.” In order to inherit his father’s vast estate, including his priceless wine collection, Shizuku must identify 13 different wines: the first 12 are called “The Twelve Apostles,” the 13th being the eponymous “Drops of God.” But Shizuku has competition – just before he passed away, Yutaka Kanzaki adopted another son (!), Issei Tomine, who seems – at least in terms of the wine world – to be Kanzaki’s heir apparent as he’s already a highly regarded wine critic in spite of his youth (and arrogance, ahem!). The two ‘brothers’ have exactly a year to identify the selected wines. Lest you think Issei has the clear advantage, no worries: Shizuku grew up with his legendary father who somehow managed to instill some phenomenal abilities in his contrary son. Shizuku also gets by with not-a-little help from his friends, especially sommelier-in-training Miyabi Shinohara.
Woven into the rather exciting treasure hunt are many other reasons why this series is so enticing:
- Even if you’re not a wine enthusiast, you can’t help but learn some fabulously insightful facts here: about terroir, mariage, vintages, regions, decanting, and so much more. Plus, all the wines mentioned are for real!
- While chasing the Apostles, Shizuku and Miyabi run into endlessly entertaining characters who both help and hinder the great search, including lost lovers, an Italian wine expert who eschews all things French, a flailing restaurateur, twin wine salesmen with vastly different methodologies, an amnesic painter, and so many more.
- The art, the art! Your palate might be intrigued by the various bottles, but your eyes are what will get the real feast. Every time Shizuku discovers a fabulous wine, his imagination blossoms across the pages – from heartfelt childhood memories to pastoral scenes, to a gorgeous masquerade ball to Freddie Mercury (!), to chanting monks and even Cleopatra. Shizuku’s competition, meanwhile, sees John the Baptist’s severed head. Go figure!
- By the way, ”Tadashi Agi” is the pseudonym for a brother-and-sister team – talent sure runs in this family!
So as the holiday weekend begins, you might celebrate with a few of the wines – depending on your budget, you can actually find a few affordable choices (volumes 1 and 2 offer an especially educational (emotional, funny) face-off between cheap French and Italian vintages of the $10, $20, $30 range!). Just know your limits … and à votre santé indeed!
Published: 2011-2012 (United States)