2008年10月21日 星期二

“The Drops of the Gods,”...

Next Week, Our Hero Chooses a Médoc

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

“A GAME” Yuko Kibayashi, left, and her brother, Shin, mix wine and comics. More Photos >

Published: October 21, 2008


SIPPING a 2001 Bordeaux from Château Mont Perat, a bead of sweat trickling down his left cheek, Shizuku Kanzaki is suddenly overwhelmed with images of a turntable, guitars and Freddie Mercury.

“It’s powerful,” he says of the wine, “but it also has a meltingly sweet taste, with an acidic aftertaste that catches you by surprise. It’s like the voice of Queen’s lead vocalist, sweet and husky, enveloped in thick guitar riffs and heavy drums.”

Since coming out of nowhere four years ago, this 20-something Japanese would-be sommelier has quickly become the most influential voice in Asia’s wine markets.

In Tokyo, wine sellers monitor his weekly pronouncements before adjusting their stocks accordingly. In newer markets like Taiwan and urban China, his recommendations are turning the newly affluent into wine converts. And in Seoul, South Koreans now hold forth on “terroir” and how a bottle “marries” with a particular dish without blinking.

Never mind that Shizuku is a comic-book figure, the hero of a manga series, “The Drops of the Gods,” created and written by a middle-aged Japanese sister-and-brother team. Asian readers who have never heard of Robert M. Parker Jr. scrutinize the comic hero’s every sip, learning about wine in words and images that may seem strange to traditionalists.

The series has evoked images as disparate as the painting “The Angelus” by Jean-François Millet (to explain a wine’s richness) and a marsh north of Tokyo (to describe a difficult yet rewarding vintage).

“These are images that emerged from wines that we actually drank,” said Yuko Kibayashi, 49, who created the series with her brother, Shin, 46. “It’s like a game.”

The Kibayashis, who write under the pseudonym Tadashi Agi, came up with the series while collaborating on another comic more than four years ago. During their work sessions, their spirits ran high as the wine flowed.

“We found ourselves looking for the drama behind the wines we were drinking,” Mr. Kibayashi said. “It started with one wine, ‘This wine is definitely a woman.’ ”

His sister said, “Right, with black hair.”

In a recent interview at Mr. Kibayashi’s home in suburban Tokyo, the brother and sister, who tended to complete each other’s sentences, said they have long been wine lovers — so much so that they rent an apartment just to stock their 3,000-bottle collection and pay for an earthquake-warning system to protect it.

Neither has any professional wine-tasting credentials; they say they are interested not in using the sommelier’s jargon but rather in describing wine from the average drinker’s perspective.

Indeed, their series “The Drops of the Gods” follows Shizuku as he learns about wine, allowing the reader to do the same. At the start of the series, Shizuku has rebelled against his father, a famous wine critic, by refusing to drink wine and working instead for a brewery. Suddenly, though, his father dies and leaves in his will a description of 12 wines he considers the world’s best, comparing them to the disciples of Jesus.

Pitted against his adopted brother, who happens to be a sommelier, Shizuku must catch up in his knowledge so he can find the 12 wines mentioned in his father’s will and inherit his father’s vast cellar.

The comic — which appears every Thursday in Japan in a magazine called the “Weekly Morning” and has been compiled in 17 books so far — rapidly became a hit in East Asia, where people are still learning to drink wine and may feel insecure about it. Even in Japan, the region’s oldest and biggest wine market, annual per capita consumption is around 2 liters, compared with nearly 9 liters in the United States or 56 liters in France, according to the California-based Wine Institute’s figures for 2005.

In Japan, wine sellers grab copies of the magazine as soon as it comes out on Thursdays, quickly showcasing a featured wine in their stores or on their Web sites. According to Enoteca, a large chain, men in their 30s to 50s tend to ask for wines from the magazine, especially those priced around $30.

The comic’s impact has been perhaps greatest in South Korea, where the Mont Perat and other wines like Emmanuel Rouget sold out after earning praise in its pages. On their first visit to South Korea last year, the Kibayashis were stunned to be greeted like stars. Television crews filmed their arrival at the Seoul airport and they were introduced to candidates during the presidential election.

Kim Jun-chul, 56, who is the vice president of the Korean Wine Society in Seoul and also runs a wine academy, said the appearance of the comic in Korean translation fueled an interest in wine that began around the year 2000. South Korea had been closed to all alcohol imports until 1987, and only a tiny fraction of the population had tasted wine.

The comic thus served as wine primer for the nation, influencing tastes in sometimes unpredictable ways. For example, there was so little demand for Burgundy that even top hotels did not bother stocking it. But after the comic extolled Burgundy’s virtues, stores and hotels scrambled to secure stocks, which immediately sold out.

“I felt the comic’s impact in my skin,” said Mr. Kim, adding that his academy attracted large numbers of wine novices. “Even my own kids, who had never expressed an interest in wine despite their father, developed an interest.”

At Addiction Plus, a trendy Italian restaurant in central Seoul, men in their late 20s to early 40s often ask about wines featured in the comic, said the owner, Kim Chin-ui, 38.

“They won’t mention that they’ve read the comic, though it’s pretty obvious,” Mr. Kim said. “They try to insert terms like ‘terroir’ or ‘marriage’ to show off — normally, to their colleagues or dates.”

“But I don’t think the women are impressed,” Mr. Kim added. “I can tell from their faces. I mean, the women know where the terms are coming from, because they’ve read the same comic.”

The wines featured in the comic are selected by the Kibayashis, who say they have no sponsor. They do, however, accept free bottles from wine importers, though “our stance is that we won’t necessarily feature them,” the sister said.

In general, French wines have gotten the most attention in the series. The Kibayashis are unabashed Francophiles who say they do not feel American wines have the Old World’s depth.

“I don’t feel the terroir,” the brother said.

His sister said: “They’re too simple. Wines are like human beings. The first time you meet, instead of being all smiles and wanting to become friends right away, there has to be some formality, some conversation, before gradually becoming close. When you open an American bottle, it’s all big smiles.” It may be fortunate for Americans that there are no plans for an English translation of “The Drops of the Gods.”

For France, though, whose share of the Japanese wine market had been falling in recent years, the series has been an unexpected blessing.

A French translation of the first book was published in France in April and, thanks to strong sales, was followed rapidly by the next four titles in the series. There’s no word yet, though, on whether French readers think 2001 Château Mont Perat tastes like Freddie Mercury.

2008年10月14日 星期二

David Lett, Oregon Wine Pioneer, Dies at 69ワイン用葡萄品種の一覧

David Lett, Oregon Wine Pioneer, Dies at 69

Published: October 13, 2008

David Lett, who planted the first commercial pinot noir vineyard in Oregon, opening the way for what became a thriving pinot noir industry, died Thursday at his home in Dundee, Ore. He was 69.

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Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian

David Lett in 2003

The cause was heart failure, his son Jason Lett said.

There was no wine commerce in Oregon back in 1965 when Mr. Lett arrived in the Willamette Valley, armed with 3,000 vine cuttings and a theory that the best wines come from places where the grapes have to struggle to ripen. He and his wife, Diana, planted 13 acres of vines in 1966 in an old prune orchard in the Dundee Hills, which they named the Eyrie Vineyard. Their vines foreshadowed the future of Oregon winemaking. Today, the state has more than 10,000 acres of pinot noir.

In 1970 he produced his first vintage of Eyrie pinot noir. He found it so disappointing that he refused to call it pinot noir, selling it instead as Spring Wine. He soon found his stride, and in 1979 his 1975 Eyrie pinot noir became the first American pinot noir to compete successfully with Burgundies in a blind tasting in Paris.

The Eyrie pinot noirs are graceful and elegant with complex aromas. They are pale ruby in color, and against many of today’s inky dark pinot noirs, which strive for power and weight, the lighter-bodied Eyries have sometimes been misjudged as thin and pallid.

“He always felt deeply appreciated by culinary types who understood that wine was made to go with food,” Jason Lett said. “I do think he felt regret for the misrepresentation of power as terroir.”

David Lett was born in Chicago in 1939, and he graduated from the University of Utah in 1961. After a stint in the Coast Guard Reserve, he planned to attend dental school at the University of California, Davis. On his way to Davis for an interview, he made a detour through the pastoral Napa Valley, where he stopped at Chateau Souverain, the leading Napa winery of the time, run by Lee Stewart.

“He was absolutely floored by what Lee was doing,” Jason Lett recalled, “and he asked Lee for a job right there.”

His parents were not so thrilled, but agreed that if he returned to school for a professional degree, he could pursue winemaking. He did attend Davis, and emerged in 1963 with a degree in viticulture.

After traveling through Europe visiting wine regions, he returned to the United States in love with the pinot noir grape, with the conviction that it could succeed only in a marginal environment. A taste of some particularly good strawberries grown in the Willamette Valley convinced him that it was the place for pinot noir. He moved there in 1965.

While searching for the right site for a vineyard, Mr. Lett supported himself by selling college textbooks. The job permitted him to drive around the state, and whenever he saw a likely area, Jason Lett said, he would pull over to take soil samples. In the summer of 1966 he found his vineyard, and he also found a wife. David and Diana Lett spent their honeymoon planting grape vines, Jason Lett said.

In addition to his wife and son Jason, Mr. Lett is survived by another son, James, of Dundee. Jason Lett took over as winemaker at Eyrie in 2005.

While pinot noir was his passion, Mr. Lett was also the first winemaker in the United States to produce pinot gris, now the second leading grape in Oregon, after pinot noir.

Although Mr. Lett at first derided his 1970 vintage of pinot noir, he decided later that he had been mistaken. With time, the wine he thought thin and wan turned complex and delicious.

“We had a bottle with Christmas dinner last year,” Jason Lett said, “and it was fabulous.”

ピノ・ノワール (Pinot Noir) は、フランスのブルゴーニュ地方を原産とする世界的な品種で、紫色を帯びた青色の果皮を持つ。冷涼な気候を好み、特に温暖な気候では色やフレーバーが安定しないので栽培は難しい。イタリアでは「ピノ・ネロ」(Pinot Nero)、ドイツでは「シュペートブルグンダー」(Spätburgunder)の名がある。遺伝子的に不安定で変異種が少なくない。この中には、緑みを帯びた黄色の果皮を持つピノ・ブラン(Pinot Blanc)や褐色のピノ・グリ(Pinot Gris) などがあり、時には同じ樹に異なった色の果実がなるともいわれている。フランス以外では最近ニュージーランドでの栽培が盛んで、日本でも北海道など寒冷地 を中心に栽培される。ワインはライトボディで、弱めの渋味、繊細かつ複雑なアロマとフレーバーや強い酸味が特徴である。シャンパンのような高級スパークリングワインにも欠かせない品種である。