The book follows the adventures of Shizuku Kanzaki, the rebel son of a wine critic, who must complete a Herculean set of wine-related tasks to secure his inheritance. To complicate matters, Shizuku’s father adopted a second son on his deathbed — a slightly evil superstar wine critic who must compete with Shizuku for the rights to the estate.
What follows is an amusing mix of Japanese kitsch and beautifully rendered wine descriptions. In a sip of 2001 Château Mont Perat, Shizuku finds Freddy Mercury:
“It’s powerful,” he says of the wine, “but it also has a meltingly sweet taste, with an acidic aftertaste that catches you by surprise. It’s like the voice of Queen’s lead vocalist, sweet and husky, enveloped in thick guitar riffs and heavy drums.”
The authors, a brother and sister team writing under the nom de plume Tadashi Agi, endeavor to create links between wine tasting and more familiar experiences. Hyperbole aside, the authors manage to conjure a version of wine that is intensely personal, yet widely comprehensible.
Flowery metaphors are counterbalanced by a fair bit of instruction in technical wine history, vocabulary, and viticulture. For example, one of Shizuku’s adventures traces the legacy of one of Burgundy’s most influential terroirists, Henri Jayer, by mapping the degree of his influence in the wines of his students, relatives, and friends.
It is precisely this balance of imaginative storytelling and technical material that makes “The Drops of God” a refreshing departure from your typical wine reading. It is an accessible, if slightly exhausting story that expertly blends instruction with entertainment.
Although it will likely be less influential in the U.S. wine market than it was in Asia, The Drops of God is a worthwhile read, particularly for those who can enjoy their wine with a grain of salt.