French winemaker withdraws vintage after manga cartoon craze


Jean-Pierre Amoreau halts international sales of 2003 wine, saying he wants to deter speculators

A French winemaker whose little-known 2003 vintage was catapulted to oenological stardom by a Japanese television cartoon has withdrawn the bottles from international sales in an attempt to prevent it from becoming the preserve of wealthy speculators.

Jean-Pierre Amoreau, owner of Château le Puy in the Bordeaux region, was "very happy and surprised" when he saw Japanese orders for one of his wines rocket several months ago. His agent in Tokyo explained that in March, a cartoon spin-off of the wildly successful Drops of God (Kami no Shizuku) manga comic series had plucked his vintage from obscurity.

But instead of revelling in his new celebrity, Amoreau decided to take action to keep his wine for the discerning and worthy few. "We immediately withdrew this vintage from sale through our agents across the world in order to avoid speculation because we wanted this wine, which had been chosen as a mythical wine, to remain within reach of everyone," he told French radio today.

Begun in 2004 in a Japanese magazine, the Drops of God series has since become a phenomenon in the international wine market, boosting Asian interest in a previously overlooked drink and giving unprecedented attention to various bordeaux tipples that suddenly found themselves the drink du moment in Tokyo bars.

The comics, which recount the quest of a young man to inherit his wine critic father's vast collection, see him attempt to identify the 13 wines chosen by his father in his will. They are all real-life vintages – such as the 1994 Château Lafleur and 1999 Château Palmer – and the wines have experienced a surge in sales after being featured in the books.

"The effect has been enormous and rather impressive," said a spokeswoman for Glénat, the publishing house that has printed the translated volumes since 2008, adding that some of the winemakers chosen had seen their Asian exports double or even triple.

She said: "The authors did not expect this phenomenon. They were quite surprised that they were able to influence the French market like this, as the choices are based on their personal tastes."

The upturn in sales seen by Château le Puy in March, after the broadcast of a spin-off television show, is likely to pale in comparison with what lies in wait for the lucky wine chosen as the 13th and final vintage of the original manga series – not due to be published for several years.

Amoreau had 150 orders for his 2003 vintage the day after the cartoon's finale was shown, and even received Japanese fans who had travelled from Paris to buy some.

For him, however, that was enough to take steps to combat speculation. He said he wanted the wine to be "sold for the accessible good of everyone and not only be reserved for people who buy luxury wine." He keeps "a small stock" for those buyers he deems genuine connoisseurs, and has only raised the price from €15.50 (£13.20) to €18.

catapult : katapultować

connoisseur : koneser, znawca

deter : powstrzymywać

oenological : enologiczny, związany z winoznawstwem

pluck : wyrywać, wyciągać

revel in : cieszyć się, radować

tipple : napój alkoholowy

upturn : zmiana na lepsze

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