Story & photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling GourmetTM
The inspiring Travelling Gourmet goes to the restaurant of his good friend to taste the unique wines of…
MARVELLOUS Chateau le Puy in Guy Savoy, one of my favourite ‘haute cuisine’ restaurants. Meeting soft spoken and modest Jean-Pierre Amoreau, 74, the blonde crew-cut owner of Chateau le Puy, was a positive pleasure. The importer of Chateau le Puy, bright Guillaume Willk-Fabia, welcomed me with a glass of Chateau le Puy Marie Cecile 2010. Made with 100% Semillon, its youthful energy with notes of flowers and mineral was most refreshing.
Jean-Pierre explained about his wines,”This year we are celebrating the 400 year Anniversaire of Chateu le Puy in 2010 with a special limited edition of a one liter bottle of Cuvee Blaise Albert! Our wines are very different from other Bordeaux wines. We NEVER use new oak…only 5 year old oak barrels.”
One fine day Chateau le Puy 2003 vintage was featured in the Manga “Kami no Shizuku” which means “The Drops of God”.
Sales rocketed! Emails and faxes started to come from Japan ordering the wine! As Jean-Pierre put it, “We were taken by suprise and told our agents and importers to stop all sales immediately…because we did not want speculators pushing up the price! It was a big success for us and a total suprise…but a very nice suprise!”
This popular Japanese manga comic series about wine—“The Drops of God” (Kami no Shizuku)— was responsible for the little known 2003 vintage of Château le Puy being rocketed into oenological stardom.
The comic series debuted in Japan in 2004. The story follows an estranged son in competition with his adopted brother who is a talented sommelier. They have to solve a series of baffling enigmas that describe 12 wines that their acclaimed wine critic father, considered to be the equivalent of Jesus Christ’s Disciples. The first son to find the “Disciples,” along with a 13th wine, which the father calls the “Drops of God,” will be rewarded with a unique collection of very fine wines.
The “Drops of God” manga is both a publishing and wine promotion success! Wine is introduced to manga readers and manga adult comics is introduced to wine enthusiasts. Wine sales in Japan jumped 130% the first year the publication appeared; the main wine store in Korea saw an increase in sales of 150%. Within four years, over six million copies of the manga had been sold in Japan, along with three million in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. A French version (Les Gouttes de Dieux) was launched in April 2008, and by December of that year the series had registered sales of more than 500,000 copies.
In January 2009, a live action soap opera on TV was broadcast by Nippon TV. It was the March 2010 television series finale, profiling the 2003 Château le Puy as one of the “Drops of God” Disciples, that launched this little known wine producer into the limelight. Other relatively unknown wines mentioned in the manga series have sold out in Japan within days, with prices often tripling in Internet auctions.
Château le Puy owner Jean-Pierre Amoreau’s response to this fame, in an era of Bordeaux primeur “wine futures” speculation, is amazing. Recently he announced that he was ceasing international sales of his 2003 vintage in order to deter speculation and to retain a small stock for his loyal customers. Even this did not stop two Japanese tourists who traveled from Paris to knock on the château door to ask if they could purchase two bottles. Incidentally, the Bordeaux 2011 en premier is a disaster as rich PRC Chinese have pulled out after losing money speculating on Bordeaux wines.