There are two incontrovertible truths when it comes to the movie Sideways.
The first is that it has now been referenced to death by those of us in the wine-writing business and really shouldn’t be talked about anymore if at all possible. The second is that the movie really did have an unprecedented impact on the wine industry and on the fortunes of California Pinot Noir producers up and down the state.
So here I am writing yet-another-wine-article that references Sideways, but only because there’s a chance that we’re on the threshold of another such seismic change in the world of wine driven by pop culture.
About 16 years ago a major power emerged in the world of wine. Call him the first major wine influencer since Robert Parker. Someone who more than 500,000 Japanese and nearly an equal number of Koreans followed religiously. If he recommended a wine, sometimes it would literally disappear from wine stores throughout Asia, snapped up by devotees eager to experience the qualities he so evocatively described wafting from the bottle and glass.
His name is Shizuku Kanzaki, and he’s a cartoon.
More accurately, he is the main character in one of the wine books that few in the Western Hemisphere have ever heard of (unless you’ve been a diligent reader of this blog for the past 16 years): Kami no Shizuku. In English, that’s “The Drops of God” and it is a best-selling manga comic book, not to mention a rollicking good story positively suffused with a deep, deep love and interest in wine.
So why am I telling you about a nearly 20-year-old comic book about wine and talking like it might change the wine world forever? Because it’s just about to be released as a live-action series on Apple TV+:
If you’re familiar at all with the story, you’ll notice a couple of changes right away. They’ve decided to make the protagonist white, but they’ve decided to keep the villain Asian, which is pretty lame from a representation perspective if you ask me. Didn’t we learn anything from Crazy Rich Asians?
They’ve also flipped the script and made the protagonist a woman, which initially plays into stereotypes about wine knowledge (the main character starts off clueless and disinterested in wine). Though she will rapidly “come into her abilities” thanks to the help of a trusty (and hunky) French sommelier sidekick-turned-love-interest.
Nonetheless, there are hints in the trailer that the series attempts to do what the comic does so well, which is to creatively romance the complexities, mysteries, and allure of wine, as well as the emotions it can evoke. This may set the series apart from some of the other wine-infused series that have come out recently, such as Grand Crew, Succession, or The White Lotus.
Will this be the next Ted Lasso? Instead of baking shortbread and watching the World Cup, will it send thousands of people down to their local independent wine shop asking for Riesling, or to their local wine school looking for introductory sommelier courses?
We’ll just have to wait to find out. But between this and Silo, it looks like I’ll have to restart that damn Apple TV+ subscription again.
The series premieres on April 21st. Read more about it.