Wine Lovers Toast Les Gouttes de Dieu, the Japanese Wine Comic

“Once upon a time there was an amazingly talented brother-sister artistic team who lived and worked in Tokyo.  And though they created under the pseudonym of Shu Okimoto, their real names were Shin and Yuko Kibayashi. Together their work would affect the fortunes of winemakers around the world…”

If this sounds like a fairytale, it could almost be one, but with a modern twist.

It all began in 2004 when the Weekly Morning Magazine started publishing Les Gouttes de Dieu or Kami no Shizuku. (For those of us not fortunate enough to speak French or Japanese, the title of this remarkable manga translates as “The Drops of God”).

If you are asking at this point “What is a manga?” that’s perfectly alright as there’s always more to learn in life.  Mangas are a uniquely Japanese art form that developed in the late 19th century and first grew to great popularity in 1950’s.  Drawn most often in black-and-white comic book style, mangas cover a wide range of subjects from comedy to commerce.  

Yes, comic books and millions of people read them and not just in Japan. Canada and the U.S. purchased $175 million dollars worth just in 2008 alone!

Well back in Tokyo, Shin and Yuko were busy creating a unique storyline for their very original manga, one that would affect the marketing of wine around the world.

In beautiful line drawings they introduced Kanzaki Shizuki, the estranged son of the world famous but recently deceased wine critic Kanzaki Yutaka.  In order to claim his inheritance, Shizuki, who never learned anything about wine, must discover the identity of 12 unknown wines, known as the “Apostles”. In addition, there is a final great 13th wine that he must find, called Les Gouttes de Dieu.  

To make matters worse, he is competing against Toomine Issei, an up and coming wine critic, who is also the adopted son of his father.  Ouch, that’s got to hurt!  But Shizuki is not alone.  He has the help of friends and the sommelier trainee Shinohara Miyabi. 

In order to win Shizuku and Issei most find the exact match for the 13 unnamed wines that Yutaka only describes in his will.  So far in the series, seven “apostle” wines have been identified, each representing the character of one of Jesus’ faithful followers.

The resulting wine wins have caused wine sales to surge not only in Japan, but also across all of Asia. The French wine houses, lucky enough to be named as the producers of one of the winning mystery wines, have seen their sales increase up to 70%! Fantastic! 

Creativity, you see, is important, not just in the making of wine, but also in its marketing. What good is the greatest wine in the world if no one enjoys it or worse it is enjoyed only an elite special few? No, wine, good wine is meant for us all.

Shin and Yuko in Japan have opened the cellar doors and uncorked, not just any wines, but some of the world’s best (and often overlooked) wines for hundreds of thousands of readers. Well done!

But then wine has always been a mystery waiting to be discovered AND enjoyed!  Just be sure to share!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010

Posted on December 2, 2010 .