The young Japanese winemaker Issei Tomine needs to identify a wine on a blind test to get a job. Just smelling the aromas, without taking a sip, he spikes the percentage of the grapes and shoots: “Côtes de Franc, Château Le Puy, Cuvée Barthélémy 2017”. Right in the bull’s-eye.
Meanwhile, in France, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, writer Camille tries to reorganize her senses trained in childhood by her father, winemaker and critic Alexandre Léger. She cannot drink alcohol and needs to learn to accurately recognize labels as she battles Léger alumnus Tomine over her father’s inheritance, a rare wine cellar valued at $148 million.
The combination of wineries, evaluation techniques and labels with the fantasy of heightened senses put to the test sets the tone for “Divine Drops”. The new Apple TV+ series is an adaptation of the homonymous manga that helped boost the beverage market in Asia.
Published between 2004 and 2014 in 44 volumes, “Kami no Shizuku” featured the duel between the son of a recently dead wine critic and his most brilliant pupil. The two Japanese characters needed to identify the labels of 12 wines based on clues and descriptions left by the winemaker in a mission that was as attractive as it was implausible. The series follows almost the same map, but in a more concise manner.
The great balcony of the creators of HQ, the brothers Shin and Yuko Kibayashi, under the pseudonym of Tadashi Agi, and the designer Shu Okimoto, was to present real labels and winemakers in the plot. Each issue conveyed a sense of oenological education to readers and served as a shopping guide for those most interested. The publication was read by 300 million people.
References to “Kami no Shizuku” were awaited weekly by stores and importers. At South Korea, vendors adorned the wine racks with signs with manga indications. Real wineries praised in the fictional story had sales up to 130% higher in Asia.
This is the case of the then unknown Château Mont Perat, which, in two days, sold 600 bottles of its 2001 Bordeaux blend to customers in Taiwan. Wine, which cost US$ 15, went up to US$ 150. The same happened with Château Le Puy, from the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux sub-region: the 2003 vintage was sold out because of its appearance in the manga. Bottles circulated in the market worth more than $1,000.
With the success, the brothers Shin and Yuko Kibayashi opened a wine subscription club in the USAlaunched a tasting game for cell phones and were decorated by the French government with the Order of Agricultural Merit and the Order of Arts and Letters.
The series took liberties with the work. And, although some bottles appear throughout the season, “Gotas Divinas” avoids serving as a promotion for real labels.
“When I created the challenges for the series, I didn’t choose the wine and then write the script. I invented the duels and then the wine consultant [Sébastien Pradal] presented me with some labels that matched the description”, says screenwriter Quoc Dang Tran, who has already signed episodes of the series “Dix Pour Cent” and “Marianne”.
When you need to highlight certain wines, fiction takes the place of reality. There’s a $10,000 bottle of Touraine-Domaine Gigon-Cépage 1990, a wine that doesn’t exist. Camille, when she trained with her father as a child in Châteuneuf-du-Pape, went to Domaine Chassangre, a fictional winery set in the famous Château de Beaucastel. The descriptions, however, are all real, like the geographic location.
“If people follow certain steps shown in the series, they will learn more about wines, for sure”, says the protagonist Fleur Geffrier, who trained to follow the methods of sommeliersfrom the identification of aromas to the correct opening of bottles.
“My interest is piquing people’s interest in wine, which, at the end of the day, is about conviviality,” says screenwriter Dang Tran. “You don’t buy an expensive wine to drink alone in the living room.”
“Gotas Divinas” presents two schools in the formation of a winemaker. The first is the more traditional one, with Issei Tomine, played by Tomohisa Yamashita, going through professionalizing courses.
In Brazil, there are courses available for those who want to become a sommelier, a professional responsible for wines —among them the Brazilian Association of Sommeliers.
In most courses, the student learns how to carry out a sensory analysis of the wines, the origin of the labels, preparing menus and the basic process of viticulture. There is a module certification system that can take years.
The other path presented in the Apple TV+ series is that of an early start in the industry. The character of Camille Léger was basically raised in a winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, with her father, a famous winemaker, serving as a mentor.
After her parents’ separation, she distanced herself from oenology and only returned to try to conquer her heritage in the form of rare wines. For that, she had to go back to her studies with the help of the “Le Nez du Vin” ledger —a method that brings 54 bottles with the aromas found in wines. To train, you need to memorize these aromas and try to guess them in the dark.
The project is the brainchild of Frenchman Jean Lenoir, who died recently and passed the baton to his daughter, Viva Lenoir, who, like Camille, spent part of her life trying to distance herself from the wine world, but ended up falling back in love with the drink and today he is CEO and responsible for preparing the liquids that go in the box’s bottles. The product can be ordered in Brazil by De La Croix Vinhos (delacroixvinhos.com.br).