Have you ever been completely baffled by a restaurant wine menu, or taken a sip of an expensive bottle of bubbly and thought, meh?
Wine, and the deep well of oenological knowledge that underpins it, can often seem completely inscrutable. Most people don’t have the resources, interest, or time to get WSET certified or take a sommelier class. At its worst, the world of wine is extremely classist, especially when it comes to collector wines. Like much of the world’s fine art, these vintages are kept locked away, viewed as either an investment or a status symbol, sectioned off from their intended use: to be enjoyed.
‘Drops of God’ Review
The new Apple TV drama Drops of God interrogates the inherent snobbiness of wine culture while also making it accessible to viewers who don’t know the difference between an unoaked Chardonnay and a minerally Provençal rosé. The show is set between Tokyo and various locations in France, and performed in French, English, and Japanese.
The premise of the fictional drama Drops of God is, to say the least, kind of f-ed up: When wine legend Alexandre Léger dies, the inheritance of his hundred-million-plus dollar estate comes with the bizarre caveat that his estranged French daughter Camille (Fleur Geffrier), must face off against Léger’s Japanese protégé, Issei (Tomohisa Yamashita), in a blind wine tasting, winner take all. Talk about manipulative.
What Léger doesn’t know is that his daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a child, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t know anything about wine. It’s implied that Léger had tried to teach Camille about wine when she was a child, administering strict lessons in which Camille was blindfolded and asked to identify different flavors, in a vineyard in France where the Léger family would spend holidays. These lessons seem to have led to a traumatic event, after which Léger was ostracized from the family unit. As an adult, Camille has some kind of psychological aversion to alcohol and other strong flavors, which results in instant nosebleeds and makes her pass out if she so much as tastes wine.
So Camille, hoping to claim her fortune, engages in an intensive wine education program at the vineyard in France where her father once gave her lessons, under the tutelage of her father’s mean friend, Philippe, and his hot son, Thomas. (According to the trailer, we’re in for a sexy subplot with Thomas somewhere down the line.) Camille seems to be in possession of some kind of mind palace where smells and flavors are stored, and the stoking of her sensory memory also brings up incidents from her traumatic childhood. It’s all very Proustian, and if they give her a madeleine at any point I will scream.
Meanwhile, Issei is facing setbacks of his own, including a family who sees his obsession with wine as frivolous and incompatible with the kind of status he is suited for. His remarkable talent for identifying wines while blindfolded results in comments that he is “sniffing around like a dog,” and while he could easily win Léger’s inheritance, his family sees the whole affair as tasteless, and they are determined that he should forego the competition against Camille. (I’m not sure how rich his family is, but they seriously want him to give up hundreds of millions of dollars? Who are these people?)
You Don’t Need to be a Wine Expert
As we learn more about the lives of both Camille and Issei, it is hard not to root for both of them: the gifted underdog and the diligent professional. A little sprinkling of family trauma for each of them makes the whole thing *chef’s kiss.*
Luckily, despite all the hoity-toity wine talk, Camille acts as a surrogate for all of us wine idiots furiously swirling our Cabernet at home, as if that will suddenly turn us into Level 2 certified somms. As she learns how to identify wines by their color, smell, and taste, I guarantee that you will be sniffing your wine at home, trying to determine if what you’re getting is more green apple or honey. The goal of Drops of God seems to be to exalt wine to a dynamic epicurean experience that is only truly available to those who are completely in touch with their senses. It’s not all about money and prestige—it’s about surrendering to your own palate.
“You need to see behind the alcohol, Camille,” Philippe tells Camille in one scene. “Wine, it’s the earth, it’s the sky, it’s humans. Wine is nature.” A little over the top, sure. But if you’re going to make an entire show where the MacGuffin is some obscure wine profile, I guess you’ve got to make us care about it. Drops of God does just that, and more.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.