Everything about Apple and Legendary’s newest streaming series is extreme — which you can probably tell since it’s a show about wine with the overly dramatic title Drops of God. And yet it works. It takes what may seem like a niche subculture full of snobs and millionaires and turns it into a high-stakes thriller that constantly kept me on edge. I really can’t believe how tense I got watching someone sniff a glass of red wine.
Loosely based on a manga of the same name, Drops of God is a story about family and competition. Things really kick off with a death. When world-renowned wine aficionado Alexandre Leger (Stanley Weber) passes away, he leaves behind an incredible inheritance: a cellar packed with 87,000 bottles widely believed to be the most important private collection in the world and worth upward of $100 million. But instead of just giving it away, he devises a multistep competition to make sure the booze finds the right home.
Two people are given the opportunity to claim the inheritance. Alexandre’s estranged daughter, Camille (Fleur Geffrier), who he trained from a young age to have a sophisticated palate, and his protege, Issei (Tomohisa Yamashita), one of the most promising wine minds around.
Right away, there are some complications. While Issei is an incredibly talented wine connoisseur, Camille is severely out of practice. Not only has she not spoken to her dad in years but she also developed a physical aversion to alcohol: one sip and she’ll pass out or her nose will bleed uncontrollably. Initially, the show primarily follows Camille and her attempt to figure out this little issue so she can claim what she believes is rightfully hers. She spends a month on a vineyard in France owned by a friend of her father’s learning the different smells and, eventually, tastes she needs to identify in order to correctly figure out which wine is which in the competition.
Drops of God makes this all seem very exciting and is able to make a beautiful visual spectacle of what is a very internal experience. When Camille is trying to identify a wine or a flavor, she heads into a mind palace-style space filled with everything her father taught her (and a few important memories and flashbacks to help viewers along). Sometimes, bursts of color appear when a note of something — is it moss? maybe celery root? — hits her out of the blue. Things can go over the top in the real world, too. In one sequence, Camille needs to get a sniff of an extremely rare wine that costs $10,000 a bottle; pulling it off involves an elaborate series of events not unlike an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist.
Interspersed among all the wine-swirling drama is an increasingly complex family drama that spans many years and eventually sees the two family trees intertwine. Initially, the motivations for both Camille and Issei seem obvious. Camille is fighting to prove herself in a world where, at least initially, it seems she no longer belongs. Issei, meanwhile, is trying to forge his own path, one focused on his sole passion while his family tries to dissuade him. But as their histories become more clear — and some surprising revelations come to light — both characters become much more interesting and complex.
I should also note that this is a very pretty show to look at. It’s another multilingual epic from Apple, following last year’s excellent first season of Pachinko, and the story jumps around between the homelands of both of the leads. France is rendered in primarily warm and sunny tones, as you mostly see some sprawling vineyards full of old-world charm, while Tokyo is cool and gray and where the real business goes down. The contrast suits the two characters: Camille is outgoing and prone to outbursts, while Issei is calm and collected.
As someone who is completely wine illiterate, I’ve found the show engrossing — not just for the juicy drama but also for this peek into a world I know nothing about. It’s been fascinating to see the exact process a sommelier uses before serving a bottle at a high-end restaurant and to learn that some wines have hints of chalk and pencil. It sounds gross, but it’s interesting.
Drops of God seems primed to be one of those hidden gems on Apple TV Plus, something similar to Invasion, a fascinating show that gets overshadowed by the service’s handful of heavy hitters. But if you’re looking for something to watch in between bouts of Ted Lasso or while you wait for more Severance, this is a good bet. That’s something to raise a glass to.
The first two episodes of Drops of God start streaming on Apple TV Plus on April 21st, with subsequent episodes dropping every Friday.