You need to know about: Drops of God, Volume 1

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Photograph: Lindsay M Taylor

Drops of God, Volume 1

Wine critics, take note: Asia's most influential fermented-grape publication just hit bookshelves, and it's no snoozer. Drops of God, which landed on Decanter's 2009 Power List for its sway over the Far East market, isn't a glossy highbrow mag or a point-score-wielding critic—it's a lighthearted Japanese manga series that bundles serious vino knowledge with romance and intrigue. For wine-curious readers who've never been able to slog through soil descriptions, geography studies and baffling tasting notes (sheep's wool? rubber?), here's your book. The absorbing page-turner follows Shizuku Kanzaki, whose world-renowned wine critic father has just passed away, as he searches for the 13 wines ("Twelve Apostles" and the "Drops of God") mysteriously alluded to in his father's will—the key to inheriting his valuable collection of rare wines. The hitch: The rebellious Kanzaki, who works for a beer company, has never tasted wine before and must compete against the country's most acclaimed critic, Issei Tomine. Sex, drama and some heady bottles ensue, plus the story weaves in lessons in the glass. The 424-page comic is peppered with simple explanations of basic wine concepts like terroir and the differences among vintages, but it's the sweeping two-page illustrations of taste-transporting moments (a shirt-tearing jam by rock band Queen, a maiden fleeing through strawberry fields) that better capture wine's great allure than a thousand dry scribblings on history and weather conditions. The first English translation of the multi-volume series is available at $14.95.

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