It’s rare that the wine crowd gets a fancy film or TV series made for them.

Normally, we’re stuck with documentaries or something related to the vainglorious world of “Planet Somm“. When a fiction offer arrives, it’s usually a small, indie affair such as, “Sideways”, or then cinematic, multi-lane pile-ups such as “Wine Country“.

Clearly, it seems wine is better drunk than filmed.

This is why one needs to take notice when an eight-part TV series such as Drops of God arrives. This is overall a stylish endeavor with a complex narrative and ultimately is a series that most any wine lover will enjoy.

“Drops of God” originates from a Japanese manga series which was in print for about 10 years and had 44 issues when it concluded. It focused around a bizarre search for the “Twelve Apostles” of wine which was created by, Yutaka Kanzaki the wine critic father of the protagonist, Shizuku Kanzaki. Shizuku needs to complete this search and beat his competitor Issei Tomine in order for him to inherit the cellar and fortune of his father. If the idea of a wine critic amassing a multi-million dollar fortune these days doesn’t immediately prepare you for the fact that this is a complete work of fiction, I don’t know what will.

It’s was a unique story for sure, but what makes it even more interesting is that all of the “apostles” are actually real wines, including the Ferrer Bobet Selecció Especial 2008 from DOQ Priorat. This is how I learned of the manga series as for some time, I was often bumping into Japanese enotourists in Priorat that came solely in search of this wine, or at least tasting at the winery. The other “apostles” were the usual suspects in “great” wines and mostly from France, but I can only assume there were Japanese fans who went on the trail of these wines, much the way there are people who quest after eating at every three-star Michelin restaurant.

Suffice to say, Drops of God was tremendously popular in Japan. It’s already been adapted to screen in Korea and of course Japan, but this release on Apple TV+ marks its first “international” adaptation and sees the series taking place in Japan, France, and a bit of Italy. Naturally, this all makes for great scenery (did you spot Château de Beaucastel?) as the plot takes its twists and turns via international flights and mobile phone calls in a parallel universe where there seem to be no roaming fees.

While the overall plot is mostly the same from the manga series, there’s been a huge shift in that the character of Shizuku Kanzaki has been not only re-gendered, but also re-raced into Frenchwoman, Camille Léger who is the daughter of French (not Japanese) wine critic, Alexandre Léger.

Ultimately, does it work? If you ignore the original source material, more or less. Was it necessary? Not in the least.

This is always a problem and I honestly don’t know why they felt the need to do it. The subject matter is so niche that I’m of a mind that wine people would have had no problem with the original premise of an all-Japanese cast. Even with this change, you need subtitles for around 75% of the series anyways unless you’re fluent in: Japanese, French, and Italian, as well as English.

But, in taking this shortcut, you get what is probably my biggest criticism with the series in that the Japanese cast feels like a study in what someone “thinks” Japanese culture and family relationships are. There’s more at play in the family of Issei Tomine than meets the eye, but even once you learn these things (in a very slow fourth episode), his whole family still feels unnatural and a caricature despite the actors playing his parents not lacking for screen presence and ability.

It shouldn’t come as a shock given that creator, Quoc Dang Tran, while Asian, is Vietnamese and has lived his professional life in France, being known for “Call My Agent!” The director, Oded Ruskin is Israeli. While this lends a strong international glean to the crew, there’s little debate that the French family scenes have a great deal more life than those in Japan despite both being dysfunctional.

Another issue is that the leads, Tomohisa Yamashita and Fleur Geffrier just can’t really hold the scenes as one would expect from lead actors. Thankfully, their supporting actors all do a fine job, including a truly great scene by veteran Italian actress, Lidia Vitale.

But what about the wine? This is after all a series rooted in wine.

For the general public or even passionate wine lovers, the wine component will be fine. For anyone who knows even a little bit, there are a number of items that will make you grind your teeth.

The first is that somehow, when tasting blind, people are able to call the producer of a wine in additional to region, vintage, blend, etc. We saw this in “Uncorked” as well and I guess it makes for more “Wow!” onscreen, but anyone who has studied wine knows that it’s impossible. You may call a producer once or twice in your life if it’s a region you know inside and out, but it’s exceedingly rare. It is however a part of the original manga, so I suppose we can all take a deep breath and let the suspension of disbelief kick in, much as Camille’s PTSD reaction to wine we learn of in the first episode, as well as the dead multi-millionaire wine critic father.

There are however some truly wonky wine aspects like saying a Cheval Blanc and Vega Sicilia have the same varieties in them (!!!) or the idea that not only was Ramaz Nikoladze making wine in Georgia in 1998 (he started in earnest in 2016 as per my visit for the Georgia book), but that a wine without SO2 from him would still have any life left in it, in 2023.

But, more than anything, couldn’t the producers have sat down actor Gustave Kervern (who plays the winemaking father in Châteauneuf-du-Pape) and taught him how to swirl a glass so that he doesn’t do that rocking back and forth thing?

It’s hard to really fathom how these problems exist given that there was in theory, a wine consultant for the film, but as he’s French and works in France, perhaps his expertise begins and ends there? Or did the producers just not listen to him when it came to these weird aspects? There are many things here I don’t get.

In brief, is this newest adaptation of Drops of God a brilliant take? It looks great and has a fantastic scope to it, but there are definitely some rough edges that could have been better polished and the narrative pace and plot get rather lumpy towards the middle and be prepared for a rather unsatisfying, “quaint” ending.

Despite the critiques, if you like wine and want to see it on the screen being more or less correct, give it a watch. Despite its faults, it’s entertaining if nothing else. If you don’t watch it, keep in mind that we could forever be grounded on Planet Somm.