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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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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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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). Ultimately, it is the extraordinary stories of individuals that shine through, as ordinary people risked their lives and the lives of their families to save something that they believed, with considerable justification, to be worth saving. As such, the wine at times almost becomes a metaphor for France itself.
If you are interested in the war, or interested in wine, I would recommend that you read this book.
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. The Germans were cleverly frustrated when trying to transport wines, cattle and goods to Berlin. One stationmaster reported regularly that a train had been derailed. "I am sad to report Monsieur....."
Alsace became German again and some families were to have sons who fought on the Russian front for Germany and another son who fought however he could,for France.
Top restaurants in Paris tried to fool the Germans by offering inferior champagne but the invaders were not always easily fooled. Top Champagne houses in France fought endless campaigns to save their best products yet millions of bottles ended in the cellars of the Nazis.
Some French producers became very rich and some suffered for their businesslike attitude after the Liberation. Members of the Book Group talked about collaboration and were satisfied that a conquered counry has little choice but to work with an invading power
In the United Kingdom's case, the citizens of the Channel Islands survived under the jackboot but some paid with their lives.
People with long memories may regard the wine war as trivial compared to the battles and bombing that cost millions their lives, but this is an exciting story of deering do, French style and much liked by the Book Group.
One anecdote concerns a gentleman after the war who called at the Hotel Meurice and asked to see his old room. He was shown up and walked out on the terrace and saw the Tuleries. "Ah" he said to the manager, "Yes this is what I remember ." So spoke General Dietrich von Choltitz, former commander of the city and the man who was persuaded by champagne king M Tattinger, not to obey Hitler's orders to destroy Paris.
He left after refusing a celebratory glass of champagne. He said, "I have done what I wanted to do."
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