Swirl! Sip! Pow! Wine Comic Books: Assemble!

Winemakers battle pests, sulfur and critics in illustrated adventures. Plus, Lafite's World Cup overture to Les Bleus, the story behind a rare 1966 championship Champagne, and a WineGame battle royale from Rob Wilder and José Andrés
Swirl! Sip! Pow! Wine Comic Books: Assemble!
"If I add sulfur, then will you still call me Superman..." A scene from "Les Ignorants" ("The Initiates") by Étienne Davodeau. (© Davodeau, “The Initiates,” published by NBM Graphic Novels.)
Jul 19, 2018

When wine-money-lust-intrigue saga Kami no Shizuku ("The Drops of God") splashed on the scene more than a dozen years ago, it introduced fanboys and girls of both graphic novels and grands crus to a whole new language of winespeak. "This wine is sensuality itself. A blood-scented sensuality born of decadence," one character breathily proclaims. Now, a worldwide squad of wine superartists have taken up the mantle of bringing ever more wine adventures to the page in the form of illustrated sequential panels of action and exposition.

The now-annual graphic novels and wine festival BD & Vin (translation: "graphic novels and wine") brought French, Belgian and Italian authors and artists together in May to showcase their contributions to the genre. That festival is a passion project of vigneron and comics connoisseur Romain Sou, who hosts it at his family's Bordeaux estate Château Lacouture to celebrate up-and-coming artists and writers (not all heroes—or even winemakers—wear capes).

From Les Ignorants, translated as The Initiates, by Étienne Davodeau. © Davodeau, “The Initiates,” published by NBM Graphic Novels.

Étienne Davodeau/Les Ignorants Étienne Davodeau/Les Ignorants Étienne Davodeau/Les Ignorants Étienne Davodeau/Les Ignorants

“I don’t know if wine, like books, is a part of the world of art, but it is an artisanry with some magic when one is really interested in it,” one breakout French wine graphic novelist, Étienne Davodeau, explained to Unfiltered of the once-unorthodox pairing. Davodeau spent two years on a vineyard working with Loire Valley natural winemaker Richard Leroy and sketched the experience in his book Les Ignorants—translated into English as The Initiates—wherein an illustrated Davodeau and Leroy try out each other's jobs over the course of a vintage, forging a friendship in the process. Their exploits take them from pruning to picking, battling pests, sulfur conundrums and critics along the way, with cameos from biodynamic superheroes like the Jura's Jean-François Ganevat and Corsica's Arena brothers. “I learned a lot of fascinating things about wine, and one frustrating one: I will always be a taster of limited capacity. But I keep working on it,” Davodeau told us.

Meanwhile, brother-sister authorial team Tadashi Agi's The Drops of God drips on, a somewhat racier tale of a wine critic's prodigal beer-swilling son discovering his tasting powers and challenging his nemesis to identify mystery wines in a contest to claim his late father's legacy; the story now counts 56 volumes and a short-lived live-action TV spin-off in its canon. English-language readers can find a 2015 translation of protagonist Shizuku Kanzaki's Syrah story arc—a quest for Sine Qua Non and Glaetzer—in The Drops of God: New World, but Japanese eno-comic-philes are still drinking up new installments of Marriage: The Drops of God Final Arc, which introduces a new twist to the drama: food pairings, with our heroes most recently spotted in a fight for an Italian bistro's future. Issue 13 drops July 23.

World Cup Wines: Lafite Offers Red Card of Congrats to Les Bleus; Rare 1966 English Team Champagne Coming Home (to Auction)

France's famously strict alcohol advertising and promotion laws may have kept its national team from committing any wine penalties during the World Cup, but now that they've emerged victors over Croatia in Sunday's final, Les Bleus are fielding celebratory offers from wine's own Premier Leagues Crus. Bordeaux first-growth Château Lafite Rothschild took to Instagram (there's a vintage 2018 wine-world statement for you) to offer its felicitations to the victors in the form of bottles of the '98, vinted the last year France took home the trophy. No word on whether Didier Deschamps, Paul Pogba and company have hoisted these most valuable bottles yet.

Instagram / @thedomaines
The Lafite football team (?) say, Chapeau!

Across the Channel, the England national football team also won the World Cup, and while all the players from that 1966 team have since retired or died, they left a modest vinous legacy, autographing a very limited series of magnums of Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaïque NV—one of which goes up for auction Aug. 2. “It is ‘no reserve’ but we anticipate a lot of interest in it," Jonathan Humbert of auction house Humbert & Ellis Ltd. told Unfiltered via email. The magnum bears eight player signatures from the likes of Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks, and is expected to fetch $3,900 to $5,200.

Courtesy of Jonathan Humbert
One of the Jacquart magnums bearing the signatures of England's last World Cup–winning team.

The Jacquart 1966 Team England bottles appear on the market every so often (with a surge in interest every four years or so …), so we decided to dig into the story of their provenance. Floriane Eznack, Champagne Jacquart’s chef de cave, had the details—as a collector of historic Jacquart, she herself is the proud owner of one of the signed World Cup 1966 magnums, bought at auction in 2016. According to Eznack, these magnums were originally sold between 1998 and 2003 to raise money for the Bobby Moore Charity Fund, created after the 1966 England team captain's death in 1993 from bowel cancer. Each bears between seven and 10 of the starting players' signatures; Moore was the 11th.

For Eznack, the World Cup “is a great opportunity for auctions to sell this incredible bottle and collectors and fans to buy them. I say 'incredible bottle' because of the historical richness of it more than the intrinsic quality of the wine.” Still, the bottles and the auction are a point of pride: “It is very aligned to what the brand stands for: to celebrate little and unique moments in life, carrying positive energy.”

Smells Like Victory: WineGame App from Rob Wilder and José Andrés Lets You Wage Blind-Tasting Battle Royales via Phone

What started as a years-long war of blind-tasting challenges between ThinkFoodGroup's Rob Wilder and his “partner-in-wine,” celebrity chef-humanitarian who's not above dithering around on smartphone games José Andrés, has culminated in a new app created by Wilder called WineGame. It's not so different from the spirited guessing games wine lovers have been playing IRL since the beginning of wine: The challenge begins with the game's host scanning the labels of four wines into the app’s database before blinding the bottles to players with foil, bag or decanter.

Unfiltered, playing to win, puts up a flawless score on the Rioja.

That gets the battle started—tasters join the game on their phones, sample the four incognito vinos one by one, then answer four rounds of multiple-choice questions about the grape, region, country and vintage of each. Acing a wine on first guess earns you 12 points, for a potential 48 points total per game, though wrong responses allow for additional attempts (for diminishing points). If you’re looking for some guidance in the form of a clue—Country: "The United States is known for a lot of big wine, mostly from California, 'cigar' red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel"—click the light bulb in the right-hand corner, and thank us later. For a bonus round, hosts can add questions like "Of which celebrity does this wine most remind you?" and "Would you re-gift this wine? If 'yes,' to whom?" And if you don't have any enophile friends handy, you can join a public game remotely via the app’s location system.

“We hope somms and wine pros love [WineGame] and find it to be a fun and useful tool, but we also want first-time tasters and those looking to increase their wine knowledge to be able to enjoy and have just as much chance of winning,” Wilder told Unfiltered. Speaking of winning, Team Unfiltered was crowned the WineGame Champion at the app's New York launch tourney this week, leading the 14-player scoreboard with a 41-point finish. See if you can top that!

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