September 15, 2008

Anime Sommelier

Interesting piece from the Times Online on the biggest trend shaping the Japanese wine market:
Entire 20,000-bottle shipments of burgundy sell out within hours in Tokyo if he so much as looks at a glass, South Korea's biggest film star is lined-up to play him in a TV drama and he has converted thousands of Asian women into the most discerning oenophiles.

In the rarefied world of superstar sommeliers, there may be none greater than Shizuku Kanzaki. The only snag is that he is a cartoon.

Despite his two-dimensional limitations, the hero of Kami no Shizuku (The drops of the gods) has emerged as an extraordinarily potent mover of Asian wine markets — far more so, say some in the industry, than flesh-and-blood wine critics.

The sales records of Japan's largest wine merchants have been smashed because, in a single frame of comic, the hero has uttered a dreamy sigh over a 2006 New Zealand Riesling or closed his eyes in appreciation of a Saint-Aubin Premier Cru.

Enoteca, one of Japan's top-end importers, admitted that the comic character has even begun to influence its stock ordering decisions.

Shizuku's adventures are read by about 500,000 Japanese each week and book collections of the comics have sold millions of copies. Wines that feature in his weekly manga activities regularly become overnight hits, particularly for Japan's frenetic online wine markets.

In Taiwan a single reference to a relatively obscure French terroir shifted dozens of cases of the stuff within a few days.

He has sent the prices of some vintages soaring and, in some cases, tripled sales of particular wines. Some wine importers in Japan say they have never encountered such a powerful single influence on their business.
Watch your back Parker.

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