Getting back to ”Drops of God”, or should that be ’god’? Gods, in the plural, even. The Japanese ‘kami’ appears to be more of a ‘spirit’ than a ‘god’.
One of the peculiarities with Shizuku, and his minions, but also of the nemesis, Isse Tomine, is, that wine appreciation apparently is synesthetic – the aromas of the wine induce highly complex sensations that have at times little or nothing to do with the wine, as such. Odd or romantic landscapes, wide forests, wood elves, flying horses appear, persons from the drinker’s earlier life … or ‘Queen’. No surprise that Isse and Shizuku both gravely claim that, origin, composition, production, and so on, has nothing to do with understanding the inner nature of the wine. This understanding is, however, open to a very select few, while others (tellingly called, at times, “mortal kind”) may briefly gain a feeble, reflected sensation, of this “inner nature”. The defunct Yutaka was a past master of this, including spreading the blessing of his understanding – a sort of Japanese Robert Parker but much more poetic (and without the smelly dog*).
Old Pepe, in his way, not only can apprehend this inner nature, he is even able to see what his adepts should experience but has not already managed; when he is in a good mood, he will point in the right direction, and is, I suppose, a ‘guru’, or, a ‘sensei’, though a rather reluctant one.
He is rarely in a good mood.
Many years ago I read a fairly uninteresting book, “Zen in the Art of Archery” by a German professor of philosophy, Eugen Herrigel. I remember that, in that book, the archery teacher, being also a ‘guru’ or ‘sensei’, was proclaimed to have deeper insights into the mind of his adepts than they had themselves, apparently just by watching them perform archery. Very mystic. Very spiritual. A definite link between the archery teacher and our alcoholic cardboard box dwelling Pepe, who discerns the inner workings of people by having them describe a wine while drinking it.
Almost 30 years after Herrigel, a guy named Pirsig wrote a book called, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – he himself admitted that it had nothing to do with Zen, and precious little to do with motorcycles, nor their maintenance. I remember picking it up, hoping it would be a spoof on the ‘Archery’ book which I found at the time (early 80s) fairly stuffed-shirt, but, not even that. It dealt with what the author saw, quite incorrectly, as the rationale of electro convulsive therapy in psychiatry. And Aristotle, apparently. Oh yes, and quality in writing, and various other things – I remember it as a slow and dreary read, but, it is considered an icon of US writing.
Getting back to the divine drops.
This recurring dictum, that there exist a ‘correct’ way of ‘understanding’ a wine, one and one only, and that this will apply to the same wine for years and years – it is, to my feeble mind, unadulterated bovine excrement. The end-result of prolonged rumination. No, it is not possible to say that there exist a way of describing a wine that is correct, and universal. Or, that, vice versa, a description can be given such that it will identify one wine, and one only. Perception is both personal and cultural – this fact is blithely passed over when Shizuku, in Bordeaux, to a group of French wine makers, describes a certain botrytized white wine in terms of a certain Japanese festival, very obscure to a European, and is greeted with enthusiasm – rather, he would be met with incomprehension. What festival? Why? How?
One example: Some people are very sensitive to, and very adverse to, the smell of certain strains of Brettanomyces – typically, these give a ‘barnyard’ smell, ‘stable’ has been mentioned. Others are less sensitive, or, find it rather appealing (up to a point). There does not exist a ‘correct’ level of Brett and an ‘appropriate’ reaction to it. In fact, in the end, you can reduce it to, “If you don’t like the wine, don’t drink it”.
I remember a tasting, where out of 9 participants, 6 discerned strawberries in the nose of an old Gevrey-Chambertin, while 3 experienced tar or woodsmoke. Who was ‘right’? Well, none, of course. Nor was anybody ‘wrong’.
The “Drops of god” manga perpetrates a view that is very alien to me, to wit, as already stated, there exist a ‘correct’ perception of a wine. It is not a good introduction to wine, in my opinion.
I will continue reading it until the bitter end – volume 44, I think. So far, I have not bought any wines on a recommendation from the manga.
L’abus de modération nuit gravement à la santé –
*) I refer to the movie, ‘Mondovino’. Apparently, the great wine critic, had a small farting and smelly dog whom he adored. Ever since, I have re-appraised my opinion of Big Bob. Because, he loves his dog, Apparently.