Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest TreasureHardback
List price $23.30
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Additional formats available
- Paperback $11.07
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
- Format: Hardback | 336 pages
- Dimensions: 137mm x 216mm x 36mm | 476g
- Publication date: 1 September 2001
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0340766778
- ISBN 13: 9780340766774
- Illustrations note: no illustrations
In the vineyards, wine caves and cellars of France as war and occupation came to the country, winemakers acted heroically not only to save the best wines but to defend their way of life. This collection offers true stories of the vignerons who sheltered Jewish refugees in their cellars and of winemakers who risked their lives to aid the resistance. They made chemicals in secret laboratories to fuel the resistance and fled from the Gestapo when arrests became imminent. There were treacheries too, as some of the nation's winemakers supported the Vichy regime or the Germans themselves and collaborated.
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Until his retirement in 1997, Donald Kladstrup was one of America's most distinguished network correspondents. He and his wife, Petie Kladstrup, have made Paris and Normandy their home for decades and are widely published on French Wine. Their articles have appeared in The Wine Spectator, among other magazines.
France's 'greatest treasure', according to this excellent and frequently surprising book, is wine. Many French people feel it is part of their history, defining them and contributing to their wit, gaiety and good taste. When the journalist authors happened to hear some French winemakers telling their war stories, they realized that those experiences under German occupation ahould be explored, so they painstakingly interviewed winemakers and researched many sensitive documents, though many relevant papers had been destroyed by the German High Command at the end of the war. Hitler and his Nazi top brass understood how prestigious and profitable wine could be, and to obtain the very best of French wines they needed knowledgeable men from the German wine trade to force the sale of wine on their terms, to be used or resold at great profit. The embattled and increasingly desperate French wine merchants soon learnt how to send falsely labelled inferior wines in special bottles stamped 'Reserved for the Wehrmacht', though this was a most dangerous undertaking. They also tried to conceal their superb wines in large 'caves' or underground cellars by walling them off, often collecting spiders to spin their cobwebs over the walls for instant 'ageing'. Many of these secret caches survived the war intact, but so risky were these practices, and so harsh the punishments and the German demands, that more and more winegrowers built up their connections with the French Underground Resistance. Many Resistance leaders were ferried in and out of the Occupied Zone in wine barrels, which had to be completely taken apart first in order to conceal a human being. There are tales here of horrific cruelty, heartbreaking losses and 'collaboration with the enemy'. There were heroic feats, and soul-destroying injustice and deprivation. One of the luckiest escapes was that of the city of Paris itself. Towards the end of the war, German planes had already bombed the city's wholesale wine centre, and Hitler had ordered General von Choltitz to destroy Paris rather than surrender it. The Nazis planted explosives throughout the city in preparation for its destruction before retreating. Pierre Taittinger, of the famous champagne house, obtained an interview and pleaded eloquently with the General. For the first time in his life this old-school Prussian officer disobeyed an order - and surrended the city intact. (Kirkus UK)