Every now and then, a book is good enough to share with friends. Wine & War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure is one of those books. So, I offer this brief review.
Near the end of World War II, Maurice Drouhin hid for six months in the cellars beneath the Hospice de Beaune. The Nazis wanted him for working in the French Ré sistance. Although he was less than a block from his home, his family did not know where he was. His son, Robert, now proprietor of Domaine Drouhin Oregon and the family négociant firm in Burgundy, was just fourteen years old at the time.
In Alsace, Jean Hugel avoided detection by the SS for years by posing as a staff member at a Colmar hotel, right under the Germans noses.
These nuggets of information are found in the book Wine & War written by Don and Petie Kladstrup. The book is the story about what French winemakers did to fight against Germany in World War II. At the time, the Nazis occupied most of France and controlled it through a collaborator government at Vichy headed by Marshal Philippe Pé tain. Anyone who is a WWII history buff and/or a friend of Oregon’s wine industry will enjoy this book immensely.
Greatly interesting is the fact that U.S. and British Intelligence agencies tracked the movements and troop strength of the Wehrmacht by French wine shipments data spirited out of France by French winemakers through the Résistance. The Nazis plundered and pillaged the greatest wines, but purchased millions of bottles of wine to sell to the outside world and to boost their soldiers’ morale on the front.
France’s winemakers countered by switching labels and dumping their poorest wines on the Germans. They helped hijack 250 trainloads of materiel headed for the Germans and smuggled Résistance fighters and arms across the Occupation Line in wine barrels.
Besides the Drouhins, other winemakers whose stories are told in Wine & War include: Daniel Senard (Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy); Claude Brosse (Mâcon, Burgundy); Jean and George Hugel (Riquewhir, Alsace); Gaston Huet (Vouvray, Loire Valley); Jean Monmousseaux, Loire); André Cazes (Chateau Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux); Jean-Bernard Delmas (Chateau Haut-Brion, Bordeaux); Robert de Vogüé and Claude Fourmon (Moët & Chandon, Champagne); ); Maurice and Bernard de Nonancourt (Lanson, Champagne); and Guy and Claude Taittinger (Champagne).
One cannot come away from this reading experience without being impressed by the respect with which Frenchmen regard their vineyards and wines, the barbaric treatment doled out by the German military on the French people and their possessions, and why the French dislike the Germans so much.
Information for the book was gathered by personal interviews with characters still alive today, their families, and family archives. Wine & War may be found at Borders and other bookstores, including Amazon.