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The series stars Shizuku Kanzaki, the son of one of the most respected wine critics in Japan. Much to his father's dismay, Shizuku never displayed much interest in wine, and so the elder Kanzaki took on an apprentice, Tomine. When the wine critic died, he willed his famous wine collection to either Tomine or Shizuku, whoever discovers thirteen special wines first.
In The Drops of God 2, Shizuku and Tomine are pitted against each other in a contest between French and Italian wines. Shizuku, with the help of his friend Miyabi, sets out to learn about French wines, so he can pick three that he thinks will beat Tomine's Italian wines. Fortunately, Miyabi is learning to become a sommelière, so she is able to explain to Shizuku--and to us--the differences between the wines and wine-growing regions of France.
Although there is a bit of drama surrounding the competitive wine tasting, the real joy of reading The Drops of God is learning about wine. Agi's books have to be the easiest wine course ever. We learn about the different levels of Burgundy wines, the meaning of terroir, and the importance of letting some wines air and/or decanting them. We learn about the grapes used in the wines and even the locations of some of the vineyards.
But this is no dry discourse on snooty French wine. Instead we learn by tasting. Or rather by reading about what it's like to taste the wines and listening in as Shizuku and Miyabi ask the experts for advice. What do we discover?
- That expensive is not always better than cheap wine.
- That wines from same grapes that were grown in the same region can vary widely in flavor.
- That matching wine with food is similar to matching couples for a good marriage.
- That conventional wisdom is not always correct.
The book ends soon after the family lawyer reveals the clue for the first of the thirteen wines. Tomine is immediately sure he can narrow down the wine to a region and grape. Shizuku, however, turns to his friends. Together they analyze the clues, and on the last page, Shizuku stumbles across the key to the solution, and book ends on a culinary cliff-hanger.
The black and white drawings by Shu Okimoto clearly render the emotions of the characters, which adds to the pacing of the story and competition. I particularly liked the detailed pictures of the wine labels and the yummy food served in the restaurants Shizuku visits.
I've already ordered volume three in the series. I don't want to wait 18 months until I find out what happens next. I want to know where the story will take Shizuku and what I'll learn about wine and food in the next installment. It's not surprising that the series is a winner of a Gourmand Cookbook Award.
Buy The Drops of God, Volume 2 at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published in the United States by Vertical, Inc., 2011
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).