news ‘Drops of God’ Is a Great ‘Succession’ Hangover Cure

Sometimes, the quickest shortcut to high drama is immense stakes on simple terms. That’s certainly true for “Drops of God,” the Apple TV+ series that closes out its season this week. The latest of the platform’s multilingual creative successes (including “Pachinko” and “Acapulco”), this eight-part series dives into an unusual gambit to split up the massive inheritance of global wine expert Alexandre Léger (Stanley Weber). In order to prove their worthiness as the heir to the world’s largest private wine collection and to shepherd his publishing empire, two contenders are put through a series of tasks. His daughter Camille (Fleur Geffrier) and his longtime pupil Issei Tomine (Tomohisa Yamashita) face off in a series of challenges that test both their palates and their ingenuity.

At the very least, this show’s premise and execution are easy hooks for those susceptible to stories with elaborate puzzles. But it’s either a savvy release strategy or a stroke of good fortune that new “Drops of God” episodes have been releasing weekly alongside “Succession,” the main culture-grabbing TV story that engages a lot of these same ideas. We touched on it briefly in our overview of international shows that could have made an impact this Emmys seasons (if the networks/platforms behind the show would have chosen to push them), but there’s a spiritual connection to the two. In light of the Roy family saga concluding, “Drops of God” is a gentler, subdued next watch for those looking for something of a dessert pairing.

It’s a bit reductive to try to compare fictional wine wizard to a thunderous, steamrolling media exec with a reckless disregard for little beside profit, but “Drops of God” is another show where a patriarch casts a long shadow. Each new step over the course of the season peels back another layer of the late oenologist’s complicated nature as father, mentor, businessman, and artist. His two would-be heirs become prisms through which to see how one person’s actions can reverberate across decades and time zones. Camille’s education began as a child before the events surrounding her father’s estrangement caused her to give up every kind of alcoholic beverage. Returning to wine as a means to accept what Alexandre offered in death shows how the man and his life’s work became inextricable from each other. As the most prized Léger protege, Issei faces what it might mean to sacrifice parts of his own family for excellence, much like Alexandre did years before.

Tomohisa Yamashita and Fleur Geffrier in Drops of God

Tomohisa Yamashita and Fleur Geffrier in “Drops of God”Jean-Philippe Baltel

The series doesn’t restrict itself to one country, using the contest as a catalyst for a globe-hopping adventure. (Even while moving through the world of luxury food and wine, there’s a more matter-of-fact approach to travel here that feels more grounded than the Waystar PJs.) This is the second TV adaptation of the manga written by Yuko and Shin Kibayashi, but “Drops of God” showrunner Quoc Dang Tran has expanded the scope of this latest version. The cross-cultural questions raised by the elder Leger’s original and chosen homes means that the story doesn’t necessary belong to a single language or a single nation. Key events in the story take place across locations in Japan, France, and Italy, with all the linguistic crossover those trips come with. Wine is positioned in this show as a kind of universal language, but it’s also worth noting how these characters can all speak to each other in different ones, too.

There’s a fine line between building out a believable expertise and overindulging in jargon. “Drops of God” has its own knack for making the esoteric feel more accessible. For those who have a hard time imagining how a red wine can give off hints of leather (much like an appreciation of investor days didn’t rely on intimate understanding of stock valuation), you can see the looks on Geffrier and Yamashita’s faces as the characters give themselves over to describing the taste. There’s a poetry to their detective work. Issei conveys his findings with confident precision, while Camille feels like she’s spelunking into dark, new caves with each new sniff from a new glass.

“Drops of God” also makes room for the idea that a passion for wine can be both fulfilling and self-indulgent all at once. The various people who help Camille in her wine studies crash courses have wisdom to give but also know how to instill that knowledge with a dash of humor. Those roots are in Tran’s script, taken from the source material. This “Drops of God” is right in line with the well-worn ideas of what is passed down through generations. What constitutes perfection when it comes to making and savoring wine — 100% accuracy or capturing some messy glimpse at the sublime — becomes one of the existential questions that runs through these eight episodes. The tension between that flexibility and the pressure of having to continue a lineage, however fraught and with whatever baggage can’t be shed, is at the heart of these tasks that Alexandre leaves behind for the two protagonists to hash out.

Tomohisa Yamashita and Fleur Geffrier in Drops of God

Tomohisa Yamashita and Fleur Geffrier in “Drops of God”Apple TV+

What really gives this the chance to stand apart is its visual playfulness. As Camille proceeds through her wine appreciation training after spending her adult life rejecting wine in more ways than one, we get windows into how she compartmentalizes each varietal and ingredient in her own mental memory cellar. It could easily feel like a trite metaphor, but director Oded Ruskin finds different ways to unlock different glimpses into her past and different expressions of sensory experiences tucked away from sight.

All of this is in service of a different conception of value. Weighing the relative worth of people’s reputations, lumping them in with other assets you can slap on a balance sheet, is at the core of “Drops of God,” too. Camille and Issei each have their own perception of what makes up Alexandre’s true legacy, beyond what vintages and terroirs they’re able to identify because of him. Rather than the TV equivalent of bellowing off a rooftop, “Drops of God” instead stands near the ledge and ponder the height in a quieter way. It has its own robustness that’s certainly worth trying, especially for those who’ve already developed a taste for it.

“Drops of God” is now available to stream on Apple TV+.