Champagne : How War and Hard Times Gave Rise to the World's Most Glamorous Wine

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From the time of Attila the Hun to the Germans of World War II, waves of invaders have tried to conquer the verdant region of Champagne in northern France. Yet this strife-torn land is also the birthplace of the world's favorite wine: champagne. In this engrossing history, Don and Petie Kladstrup show how this sparkling wine, born of bloodshed, became a symbol of glamour, good times, and celebration. It's a story filled with larger-than-life characters:Dom Pérignon, the father of champagne, who, contrary to popular belief, worked his entire life to keep bubbles out of champagne; the Sun King, Louis XIV, who rarely drank anything but; and Napoleon, who, in trying to conquer the world, introduced it to champagne. Then there were the generations of local vintners who struggled to keep their houses running. Claude Moët hauled his bottles to Versailles and gave Madame de Pompadour her first taste of bubbly, prompting her memorable quote, "Champagne is the only wine that lets a woman remain beautiful after she has drunk it." There was also Charles-Camille Heidsieck, known as "Champagne Charlie," who popularized champagne in America and ended up being imprisoned as a spy during the Civil War. World War I would be Champagne's greatest test of all, a four-year nightmare in which nearly everything the Champenois had worked and fought for was destroyed "in a rain of iron and fire." German bombardment drove thousands of people underground to seek refuge in the huge cellars of the champagne houses, where among the bottles you would find schools, hospitals, shops, municipal offices, and troops. Amazingly, grapes continued to be harvested even as bombs fell, and the wartime vintages are considered to be among the finest ever made. An unforgettable history, Champagne will forever change how you look at a glass of more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 147.3 x 210.8 x 30.5mm | 476.28g
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • HarperCollins World
  • United States
  • English
  • 0060737921
  • 9780060737924

Review Text

Champagne is champagne because it comes from Champagne. But there's much more to it than that, as the wine-loving Kladstrups (Wine & War, 2001) document in this sometimes fizzy portrait of the bubbly. Faux naivete may be at play when, by way of opening, the Kladstrups let drop the hint that they were shocked to learn that the Great War was horrific; that certainly isn't news to the people of France's much-fought-over Champagne region. That four-year conflict proves central to the authors' account of how bubbly survived the odds to become a drink known around the world-and to become an ever-rarer commodity in parts of it, as when Cristal went from selling 600,000 bottles a year at the beginning of WWI in St. Petersburg alone, "exclusively for the czar," to selling nothing in Russia after the Revolution, nearly bankrupting the house of Roederer. Closer to home, the war threatened to destroy some of France's most productive vineyards, which previous wars had destroyed many times over since the days of the Roman conquest and Attila. The Kladstrup's travelogue, real and metaphorical, through the Champagne region-battles over which were waged by French bureaucrats and boosters, too, as to just what the region comprised and who was entitled to use its "controlled denomination"-gets a little almanac-like at times, lending a sort of everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about feel to the enterprise. Still, there's good history to be found here, and plenty of treasures in that surfeit of facts and trivia; the authors' account of a drunken German retreat at the beginning of WWI is a standout, as is their minibiography of the since-appropriated Dom Perignon, who didn't really invent champagne-"it invented itself"-but still deserves glory for his work in raising the global quality of life with his exquisite blends of potent grape juice. Not the definitive history of champagne, but a pleasing contribution, to be read over a mimosa or a magnum. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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299 ratings
3.86 out of 5 stars
5 23% (68)
4 46% (139)
3 26% (77)
2 5% (14)
1 0% (1)
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