Comic Books Sells Top Wines

There is no doubt that the No.1 buzz in the wine world is Asia’s sudden conversion to wine. Not so long ago this was a region where whisky, cola, rice wines and domestic grape wines of dubious quality reigned supreme. Today, as I write, it is announced that China is the fastest growing wine importing market in the world – consumption increased 100% between 2005 and 2009. The great wine auction houses, both in the US and UK, Ackers, Zachys, Sotheby’s, Christie’s all look to their Hong Kong offices for growth. Meanwhile, monied Chinese collectors have forced prices to unheard of levels. At the end of last year a case of Lafite 2009 – not yet bottled – went for over £42,000 at a HK auction.

Les Gouttes de DieuA curious contributor to this frenzy of Asian interest has been the publishing phenomenon which is Kami no Shizuku (The Drops of the Gods), a Japanese manga style comic book, published in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, which tells the story of Shizuku Kanzaki and his quest to identify 13 mystery wines in competition with a rival – a task set as a condition of inheriting his father’s $20m wine collection. Along the way there are many typical comic book capers, love interest, daring deeds and a lot of detailed wine information about a small number of prestigious fine wines, for example Mouton Rothchild 2000, Chateau Palmer 1999, Chateauneuf du Pape Pegau, Cuvee da Capo 2000. About 500,000 copies of these comics have been sold in Asia over the last 6 years and each time a new one appears it allegedly leads to dramatic increases in sales for the wines featured. It is said wine sales per se jumped 130% in Japan the first year The Drops of the Gods was published. The authors Yoko and Shin Kibayashi were placed No.50 in the world’s most powerful 100 movers and shakers in the wine world by Decanter magazine.

I experienced first hand its powerful influence last year when I took 5 ladies from Hong Kong on a wine tour to Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas. Over lunch they confessed that until a few years ago their beverages of preference were beer, cocktails or Coca Cola. The Drops of the Gods inspired them to explore the world of fine wine and they have never looked back. What is perhaps most strange is that they have completely bi-passed the usual learning ladder most of us go through – from student days of whatever is cheapest in the off-licence to the revelation of our first classy Burgundy, on up to the occasional expensive hedonistic treat. These ladies, who were not short of a bob or two, went straight to £100+ bottles as recommended by their favourite comic book!

If you are intrigued to sample these books they are available from Amazon at around £7.50 each in a French translation as Les Gouttes de Dieu – a fine way to improve your French and at the same time to enjoy an escapist read and a bit of wine education thrown in!

Philip Reddaway runs La Madelene Rhone Wine Holidays email:

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