wine superheroes

an interview with Manga authors Shin and Yuko Kibayashi
     Arenown wine critic dies and leaves his house and wine collection to his son—but only if his son can identify the “12 Apostles,” a dozen wines he’s chosen as a window into his soul. The problem is, his son has never had a sip of wine in his life, and his father has made the same bid to another “son,” a confirmed wine connoisseur.
     That’s the premise of the adventures of Shizuku and his competitor in The Drops of God, a manga written by Shin and Yuko Kibayashi, a brother-and-sister team writing under the pseudonym Tadashi Aga. The manga, with its plot twists and illustrations by Shu Okimoto (wine portrayed as a Queen rock ballad; doe-eyed beauties gasping over great bottles) injects wine writing with the sort of energy more usually found in Spanish telenovas—and to great effect: The story has turned an entire generation of people in Asia onto wine, and it’s recently become a bestseller in France. Now that the second installation of The Drops of God has hit our shores, we took some time to chat with the authors about the wines that inspired them to apply manga to wine.

—Mariko Kobayashi and Tara Q. Thomas
What was the bottle that inspired your interest in wine?
     We have always loved drinking wine. However, the turning point was at a wine party at Shin’s home, the moment we had the 1985 DRC Echezeaux. The aroma was amazing—of roses and strawberries intertwined—and it was as smooth as silk. On the palate it tasted as complex as the patterns of a traditional Japanese Yuzen-dyed kimono. When we drank this wine, we felt that wine is not just another alcoholic beverage. From that point on, we became more than wine lovers; we became wine maniacs. Then it wasn’t the first “apostle”— the Georges Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 2001? Georges Roumier has always been our favorite domaine. A year before the series started, we had the Roumier 2001 Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses: In its aroma and on the palate, we sensed the “drama” of quietness and the sense of walking deeper into the forest—we definitely felt the “mysterious spring deep in a forest” and the “two tangling butterflies” —the images that we felt reflect the drama of the first “apostle.” Do you always have a visual reaction to wines? Long before we started The Drops of God, we savored wine not only for the taste but also for the world that it stirred in our imaginations—sometimes of art, or a person, an object, scenery in a foreign country. The images don’t come up naturally; they come only when you seek them. Unless you initiate a conversation, the wine will not answer you. Of the two of you, who is the cook, and who is the sommelier? We do not divide our responsibilities. We drink together, eat and write while discussing wine. What trait do you value the most in a sommelier? To be able to satisfy customers with any wine, be it young, tannic and tight or an older wine, with skill in decanting. And also to be able to offer the best pairing between wine and food. Outside of France and Italy, what other regions have caught your attention? Recently, we have been interested in wines from Spain, where there are more and more great value wines, and in New Zealand, where there are producers who have moved from France or Japan who are producing interesting wines. If you were to visualize Shizuku and Issei as bottles of wine, what would they be? That is a difficult question. Well, Shizuku Kanzaki is a genius type, yet because he comes from an affluent family, he possesses a sense of nobility. Because of that he might perhaps be a delicate yet elegant Grand Cru Burgundy Richebourg. On the contrary, Issei Tomine is like the Bordeaux First Growth Château Lafite Rothschild, which has withstood the changes of the last hundred years yet continues to show infinite potential. The parallels also lie in the fact that these wines are loved by wine aficionados around the world while their personalities are opposites.