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Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest Treasure Hardcover – 5 Jul 2001

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Hardcover, 5 Jul 2001
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; First Edition edition (5 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340766778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340766774
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 22.1 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 531,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

According to Don and Petie Kladstrup in Wine & War: the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, it was a well-known fact that Adolf Hitler did not like wine. Still, their leader's teetotalism notwithstanding, the Germans showed no distaste for French wine when they invaded France in 1940. Indeed, one of the first acts of the occupying army was to seize great stores of wine, sending tens of thousands of barrels to the Third Reich and ordering the conversion of thousands of hectares of vineyards into war production. Some French vintners, the Kladstrups write in this enjoyable study, went along with orders. Many others, however, including the heads of distinguished houses like Moe¨t et Chandon, engaged in daring and dangerous acts of resistance wherever they could. Some lied about their yields; others built false walls to hide precious vintages; and still others concocted elaborate ruses, such as sprinkling carpet dust into inferior grades of new wine to give it a musty, distinguished flavour. Not every German was fooled, and some partisans of the grape died for their troubles. But some Germans, at considerable risk to themselves, also looked the other way. The Kladstrups fill their pages with memories of the wine war from both sides of the struggle, stories sometimes sombre, sometimes amusing, that commemorate those "whose love of the grape and devotion to a way of life helped them survive and triumph over one of the darkest and most difficult chapters in French history". --Gregory McNamee


A sprightly and amusing book, full of spicy anecdotes (Evening Standard)

We see from Don and Petie Kladstrup's lively book that the history of the wine trade is, in many ways the history of France. (Literary Review)

Wine & War does not pretend to be a scholarly history of wine or the war, concentrating instead on anecdote. Some of it makes for harrowing reading as many in the trade fought back, there is plenty of cloak-and-dagger stuff too. ... a fascinating footnote. (Elizabeth Buchan, The Times)

For connoisseurs, both of fine wine and of tales of the French Resistance, this book will be a vintage treat. (John Ure, Times Literary Supplement)

An enthralling account of the bricking-up of cellars, adulterating wines ordered by the Nazis, using faulty corks and the incredible discovery by Allied troops of millions of bottles of wine stashed in Hitler's cellar...Highly recommended. (Scotsman Magazine)

Full of thought-provoking and well-told stories (Harpers & Queen)

A vibrant panorama of the different wine-producing regions and how they responded to the challenge (Sunday Express)

Entertaining and informative (Sunday Telegraph)

As the memories unfold, so does a picture of the war seldom found in history books. Personal victories, tiny triumphs and morale-boosting pranks, which ultimately fermented into a palpable resistance movement and saved an industry...Inspirational reading. (THEME)

... this offers an intriguing look at wine ... As the book reached its fin, this reader only hoped for a sequel or two; all right three. (Decanter)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book - great day-in-the-life and historical perspectives of the French and France during wartime. Particularly amusing to read about French forces determining which soldiers should attack through excellent vineyards (themselves) and which would attack through lesser ones (everyone else)...
Highly enjoyable.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Richard Miller on 8 May 2005
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was factual and informative and despite being set in depressing times, an underlying humour and deviance is never far from the surface. The book is perfect for amateur wine buffs (like me) and amateur historians (like me) who are interested in daily life during World War Two. The ingenuity of the French was amazing but, after all, they were protecting their greatest asset. By the end of this book Vichy france does not come out too well but at least france lived to fight another day with her vineyards pretty much intact. Vive La France.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ian Millard on 3 Dec. 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a pretty good account of what happened in and around the French wine industry in the early to mid 1940's. The book makes an attempt to show not only the thuggish behaviour of some German soldiers in the early days of invasion, but also the better and in fact usually very polite of the same forces thereafter.

The collapse of the French forces in 1940 and the subsequent squirming of the vineyard owners to fit in somewhere between outright collaboration and outright support for the foreign agents and other riff-raff of the Resistance and Maquis is fairly well told.

I was interested to see that the French called the Germans who came to buy (not seize) wine by a pidgin phrase "les weinfuhrers"! One of the main "weinfuhrers" was a man whose family had owned a Bordeaux vineyard before WW1 and whose family had had that vineyard confiscated during that war. After the Second World War, the German returned and eventually bought another vineyard. Life goes on. Europe goes on.

A very good read on the whole.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N. Young on 9 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
Oddly, the book starts at the end of the war, when one Sergeant de Nonencourt of the French Army found himself in Berchtesgaden alongside the Americans. There, he and his men helped to `liberate' many bottles of the finest champagne that the Nazis had been hoarding. Quite incredibly, Sergeant de Nonencourt was not only from the Champagne region, but his family was (and still is) in the champagne business and he had witnessed the Germans carrying away those same bottles back in 1940.

Thus begins Wine and War, a book which tells the wartime story of `France's greatest treasure' - her wine.It's an unusual angle, but the Kladstrups succeed in presenting an informative, poignant and highly readable account of how France, with particular emphasis on the French wine industry, coped with the German occupation. Hitler's teetotalism notwithstanding, many Germans from ordinary soldiers to high-ranking Nazi officials regarded the wine as the best of the spoils of war, and the Wehrmacht requisitioned tens of thousands of bottles to be sent back to Germany. This book is the story of how the vintners of France reacted to this.

There are tales of heroism, ingenuity, black humour, resistance and (it has to be said) a few actions which verge on collaboration - be it with either the Vichy regime or with the Germans. Some vintners, like the owners of Moët & Chandon, engaged in acts of outright resistance whenever they could, while others resisted in more passive ways, such as lying about yields and relabeling inferior vintages to fool the Germans into thinking they were being given the best bottles (which were hidden in walled-up parts of the cellars).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ivor R. B. Hibbitt on 17 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Wine and War
By Donald and Petie Kladstrup
A review for Cote de `Azur Men's Book Group
Lord Byron once wrote : "Glory, the grape, love gold, in these are sunk the hopes of all men, and of every nation." These words were written over a century before the German blitzkrieg crushed and humiliated France in l940.
La Belle France lay prostrate, surviving only under the protection -" I am your armour and sword "of an elderly General, Marshal Petain , who signed an armistice that led to the setting up of Vichy thereby supposedly giving the conquered some sort of authority.
There was no Byronic gold, merely a country that lost its pride. The Nazis looted in particular the most essential of Gallic pleasures: wine. Millions and millions of the finest vines, first growths, clarets and champagnes were demanded, many destined for the cellars of Herman Goering, Ribbentrop and non wine drinker Adolf Hitler. Some of the spoils of war.
French chateaus were requisitioned and eventually despoiled and German wine overseers, who, in peacetime had a friendly relationships with many French wine houses, were detailed to control the one -sided trade.
The Boche, of course, were only obeying orders, many of which were part of Hitler's plan to strip the occupied countries bare.
The Cote d'Azur Men's Book Group loved Wine and War by Donald and Petie Kladstrup both for the ingenuity of the wine growers and the fascinating glimpses into what was a secret war of courage .
Millions of bottles were labeled Reserved for the Wehrmacht and contained wine that was not so much good as bad. Tricks were played and most of the great wines, again, millions of bottles were stored by the growers in hidden underground tunnels. The death penalty faced many rebellious citizens.
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