A manga comic featuring French vintages has led to a boom in the sale of certain French wines. However, not all of the winemakers are taking advantage of the sudden interest from Asian wine lovers.
Prices of French wines are skyrocketing, thanks to the mangas
The worlds of Japanese manga comics and French vintage wines could not be further apart. But one of the most successful mangas at the moment - "The Drops of God," which features existing vintages available on the market - has created a wine craze in Japan and Korea and made a few wine makers into some very surprised stars.
The manga comic has also been adapted into a television series, which has become a huge success. In both versions of "The Drops of God," the son of a recently deceased wine critic pits himself against his father's adopted son to prove himself the worthy heir to his father's vast wine collection.
The son, however, has no knowledge of the wine business. Unlike his adopted brother, he has not received an education from his father in vintages, grape varieties, chateaux and all the rest. What he does have, as they say in the trade, is a nose. That asset makes him a real rival in the search for 12 wines his father calls "the apostles" and a 13th he calls "the drops of God."
Seven million people watched the final episode of the TV series where it was revealed that "the drops of God" were, in fact, a 2003 Chateau Le Puy.
The comic's creators are also wine connaisseurs
Several thousand miles away, in a sleepy village in the Bordeaux wine region, wine-maker Pascal Amoreau had no idea that his wine had just come up on the screen or what was about to hit him.
"We received 150 orders the following day by email, by fax, by telephone," Amoreau told French public radio. "Our agent in Japan told us that our wine had been elected as 'the drops of God.' That's how we found out what was going on."
The producers of Chateau Le Puy could have made a killing and lived happily ever after. But the Amoreau vineyard, which has been worked by the same family for 400 years, decided to withdraw their wine from the market. They didn't like the idea that their 2003, which they were selling for 18 euros ($24) a bottle, was being offered for sale in Hong Kong for 1,000 euros.
Amoreau preferred to keep their stock for regular customers rather than succumb to the mad rush.
"Some Japanese people called us from Paris asking if they could buy some wine," said winemaker Amoreau. "We told them we couldn't. That it was all now in a family reserve. The following day they arrived, two Japanese men saying, 'please, we've come all the way from Paris, sell us two bottles.' So we did and they went back to Paris with their two bottles."
The manga comics have been working their magic on the sales of other French wines. The brother and sister team who recently released their 25th and latest "Drops of God" manga are real wine connoisseurs. They claim they taste 30,000 wines a year and their selections, woven into the plot of their stories, have real market influence.
"The comic has been attributed with a 20 percent rise in French wine sales to south-east Asia," said Sam Souibgui, who heads the comic bookshop Komikku in Paris. "And it's not rare in Tokyo to see people walking into wine bars with a 'Drops of God' manga asking to taste one of the wines mentioned in the manga."
When the comic mentioned an obscure wine called Chateau Mont-Perat a while back, a Taiwanese importer sold 50 cases of it in just two days. The Japanese importer Enoteca says the comic now influences its stock ordering decisions. And All Nippon Airways says it has reworked its in-flight wine list due to the comic.
As for the Amoreau family at Chateau Le Puy, they recently met the manga's creators who came to visit them at their chateau. They opened a 1917 vintage that evening. And their visitors took the empty bottles home as souvenirs.
Author: John Laurenson, Paris
Editor: Kate Bowen