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Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest Treasure (English Edition) par [Kladstrup, Donald, Petie Kladstrup]
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Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest Treasure (English Edition) Format Kindle

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To Love the Vines

It was late august 1939, and French winemakers were fretting about the harvest. Two months earlier, the outlook had been bright. The weather had been good and there was the promise of an excellent vintage. Then the weather changed. For six straight weeks it rained, and temperatures plummeted.

So did the mood of winegrowers attending the International Congress of the Vine and Wine in the resort of Bad Kreuznach, Germany. The weather was all they could think about—that is, until the next speaker was announced. He was Walter Darre, the Minister of Food Supply and Agriculture for the Third Reich. Winegrowers had been jolted when they first walked into the convention hall and discovered a large portrait of Darre's boss, Adolf Hitler, dominating the room. Like the rest of the world, they had watched with growing alarm as Hitler annexed Austria, carved up Czechoslovakia and signed a military agreement with Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini. Many, fearful that full-scale war was just one step away, felt sure Darre would have something to say about the latest events.

But when the Reichsminister took the podium, he did not speak about the war. He did not even talk about wine. Instead, he called for the Congress delegates to go beyond the concerns of wine and winemaking and work instead to "advance the mutual understanding of peaceful peoples." Those in the audience were thoroughly confused.

What they did not know was that at almost the same moment Hitler himself was giving a very different kind of speech—this one to his high command—in another German resort, Berchtesgaden, the favored vacation spot of the Nazi leadership. The Fuhrer was telling his generals what was coming next and exhorting them to remember, "Our opponents are little worms. . . . What matters in beginning and waging war is not righteousness but victory. Close your hearts to pity. Proceed brutally."

Within a week, his forces invaded Poland. The date was September 1, 1939. French winegrowers at the conference were promptly summoned home. Two days later, France, along with Britain, Australia and New Zealand, declared war on Germany.

For the second time in little more than a generation, French winegrowers faced the agonizing prospect of trying to get their harvest in before vineyards were turned into battlefields. As in 1914, the government mounted an extraordinary campaign to help. Winegrowers were granted delays in being called to active duty, military labor detachments were sent to the vineyards and farm horses of small growers were not to be requisitioned until the harvest was completed.

Memories of that earlier war, "the war to end all wars," still haunted them—the brutality, the hardships and especially the staggering loss of life. Out of a population of 40 million, nearly a million and a half young men were killed, men who would have entered their most productive years had they survived. Another million lost limbs or were so badly wounded that they could no longer work.

It was a bloodletting that left almost no family in France untouched: not the Drouhins of Burgundy, the Miaihles of Bordeaux, the de Nonancourts of Champagne, the Hugels of Alsace, nor the Huets of the Loire Valley.

Gaston Huet's father returned home an invalid, his lungs permanently scarred after his army unit was attacked with mustard gas.

Bernard de Nonancourt's father also suffered the ravages of trench warfare and died of wounds soon after the war.

The mother of Jean Miaihle lost her entire family when German troops attacked their village in northern France.

The Hugel family, which had lost its French heritage and nationality when Alsace was annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, sent their son away so that he could escape being drafted into the German army.

Maurice Drouhin, a veteran of trench warfare, escaped physical injury but not the nightmares which haunted him for years afterward.

Like nearly everyone else in France, these winemaking families watched with trepidation as the specter of another war approached. Although France had been the winner earlier, it had paid a terrible price. Could it afford another such victory? Many in France doubted it, especially Maurice Drouhin, who had witnessed the horrors of war close up.

Thoughts of his family and vineyard were all that comforted him as he huddled with his men in the muddy blood-soaked trenches of northern France, peering at the enemy across a strip of no-man's-land. Although the winter of 1915 still had that part of the country in its grip, Maurice knew that back home in Burgundy, the vines already would be stirring and workers would be busy pruning. If he closed his eyes, he could almost picture it, the men with their secateurs working their way slowly down the long rows of vines; and he could almost hear the church bells that called them to work each day.

Those bells were the first sounds Maurice heard each morning when he awoke in his home in Beaune. For him, they were the background music to life in the vineyards. They rolled across the villages and wheat fields, they sent children racing to school and mothers scurrying to markets for the freshest produce of the day. They heralded lunchtime, dinnertime, and called people to worship, and to celebrate. But as World War I ground on, they were calling more and more people to mourn.

Now, on the battlefields of northern France, the sounds that surrounded Maurice were artillery and machine-gun fire and the agonized cries of the wounded. In the heat of one battle, he saw a German soldier crumple to the ground, unable to move after being shot. With German troops too frightened to venture into the storm of bullets to retrieve their comrade, Maurice ordered his men to cease firing while he raised a white flag. Then, in impeccable German, he shouted to the Germans, "Come get your man. We will hold our fire until you have him." The Germans moved quickly to rescue their fallen comrade. Before returning behind the lines, however, they halted directly in front of Maurice and saluted him.

Later, in a letter to his wife, Pauline, Maurice described the incident. Pauline was so moved that she passed the story on to the local newspaper, which published it. Headlined "The Glorious Hours," the article said, "The glorious hours sound not just for heroic action on the battlefield but also for those activities that occur in daily life, for it is when war is over that a soldier's heart and character are also revealed."

Maurice was highly decorated for his military service. Among his awards was the Distinguished Service Medal from the United States government, a medal for which he had been nominated by Douglas MacArthur. But as proud as Maurice was of that medal and his life in the military, it was his life in the vineyards that held even greater meaning for him—one that beckoned him home when the "war to end all wars" had finally ended.

* * *

That life was one of legend and myth, a life which, in many ways, had changed little since the Middle Ages. "It was a simpler time in the vineyards," Maurice's son Robert recalled years later. "We had a way of living, a way of making wine that was natural and tres ancienne."

It was made the way their grandfathers and great-grandfathers had made it. There were no experts to rely on, so everyone followed the traditions they knew and had grown up with. Plowing was done with horses. Planting, picking and pruning were done according to the phases of the moon. Older people often reminded younger ones that the merits of pruning were discovered when St. Martin's donkey got loose in the vineyards.

It happened, they said, in 345 a.d. when St. Martin, dressed in animal skins and riding on a donkey, went out to inspect some of the vineyards that belonged to his monastery near Tours in the Loire Valley. He was a lover of wine and had done much over the years to educate monks about the latest viticultural practices. On this occasion, St. Martin tethered his donkey to a row of vines while he went about his business. He was gone for several hours. When he returned, he discovered to his horror that his donkey had been munching the vines and that some had been chewed right down to the trunk. Next year, however, the monks were surprised when they saw that those same vines were the very ones which grew back the most abundantly and produced the best grapes. The lesson was not lost on the monks, and as centuries passed, pruning became part of every winegrower's routine.

Days began early and lasted until the work was done. There were no fixed hours. As they pruned, checked for maladies, tied back shoots that had come loose—day after day, week after week, month after month—workers came to know each vine personally. There was an almost mystical connection as they let the vines set the rhythm and pace of life.

After picking, grapes were crushed with bare feet. The must, or grape juice, was then poured into giant vats, followed by a process called pigeage, in which naked workers plunged themselves into the frothy liquid. Holding tightly to chains that had been fastened to overhead beams, the workers would then raise and lower themselves over and over again, stirring the must with their entire bodies so as to aerate the mixture and enhance the fermentation. It was a dangerous exercise. Hardly a harvest went by without some workers losing their grip and drowning, or being asphyxiated by the carbonic gas given off by the fermenting juice. Victims were almost always men, since women, in some parts of France, were barred from the chai, or winery, during harvesttime. Their presence, according to superstition, would turn the wine sour.

Yet harvesttime was always the happiest time of the year. When the last grapes were picked and loaded onto a horse-drawn wagon, workers would gather wildflowers to decorate the cart and to make a bouquet for the lady of the house. She would hang the bouquet above the entry to the cave, where it would stay until the next harvest to bring good luck—and good wine—to the house. Others would even scatter grape leaves on the floor to encourage the "good spirits" not to leave.

Time, then, was almost magical; it felt never-ending, Robert Drouhin recalled. During walks through the vineyards, he and his father often stopped for long, rambling conversations with the workers.

"People seemed to have more character then. They never hesitated to tell my father what they thought or how they believed things should be done, and my father was always ready to listen. Those were the moments when I learned to love the vines."

Unfortunately, those vines were in miserable shape. The years between the wars had brought mostly misery to winemakers, who suffered through a string of horrible vintages—and not just because of the weather. Battles that had raged during World War I had rendered vineyards, especially those in Champagne, practically lifeless. They had been sliced up by trenches and blown apart by artillery and mortar shells, which left enormous craters in the ground. Worse were the chemical shells that leaked into the soil, poisoning the vineyards for years to come.

World War I had arrived just when winegrowers were beginning to recover from another crisis. Phylloxera, a tiny insect that attacks the roots of grapevines, had invaded France in the middle of the nineteenth century, reducing vast areas of vineyard to what one winegrower described as "rows of bare wooden stumps—resembling huge graveyards." Over the next thirty years, the disease would spread to every vineyard in the country, prompting the government to offer a 300,000-franc prize to anyone who could find a cure. All kinds of ideas were suggested, ranging from the bizarre—planting a live toad beneath each vine—to the hopeful—watering vineyards with white wine. Some growers flooded their vineyards with seawater; others sprayed their vines with a vast array of chemicals or simply burned them. Nothing seemed to work.

The remedy, as it turned out, was something totally un-French. Growers discovered that by grafting their vines onto American rootstocks, which were naturally resistant to the root-eating louse, they could save their vines. It was a long and costly process. Vineyards had to be uprooted and replanted. Then growers had to wait several years for their vines to begin bearing fruit, and even longer for them to reach full maturity.

Just when things began looking up after World War I, disaster struck again. This time it was the Great Depression, and the effect on the wine industry was devastating. In Champagne, major houses could no longer afford to buy grapes from their growers. In Alsace, huge numbers of winegrowers went bankrupt. Those in Bordeaux were forced to accept prices that were below the national average—the first time in history that had happened. In Burgundy, wine production fell 40 percent as nearly half the vineyards went uncultivated. Even the great Domaine de la Romanee-Conti was floundering, but the family which owned it was determined to hold on to it. "My father felt it was like a beautiful jewel a woman has in her jewelry box," Aubert de Villaine recalled. "She would not wear it every day, but she was determined to keep it so she could pass it on to her children."

To do that, de Villaine's father did what many other winegrowers were forced to do to survive: he took on another job. It was his third. He was already managing the family farm and running Romanee-Conti; now he started working in a bank as well. "My father was constantly busy; he never stopped," de Villaine said, "but that is how much he loved Romanee-Conti and he spent every spare moment working there."

Revue de presse

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

Entertaining and informative (Sunday Telegraph)

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

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 704 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 336 pages
  • Editeur : Hodder & Stoughton; Édition : New Ed (1 septembre 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B005KQRD5E
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  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.7 étoiles sur 5 3 commentaires client
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Format: Broché
C'est un aspect pour le moins surprenant de la seconde Guerre Mondiale qui se trouve décrit dans cet ouvrage : qui souupçonnerait en effet que nos chères production vinicoles nationales aient eu un tel rôle à jouer durant la période troublée de l'occupation allemande ?
Le sujet peut paraître a priori anecdotique : il se révèle passionnant : cocasse, tragique, parfois émouvante, l'histoire du vin pendant la guerre et de ceux qui le produisait, le cachait ou ....le buvait se lit comme un roman. Et même si ses auteurs sont américains, il parait incroyable que cet excellent livre n'ait pas encore été traduit dans la langue de ceux qui en sont les héros. Peut-être bientôt ?
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I loved it. I thought it explained the history of the wine very well, but more importantly put it into the context of the era and of the war. however, my boyfriend liked it less as he thought it was too anecdotal. it must be said that he tends to only read non-fiction and is a history buff, whereas I am not.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.4 étoiles sur 5 271 commentaires
97 internautes sur 99 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Wine and Remembrance 26 mai 2001
Par Bill Marsano - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is not a book about wine--it's actually a non-fiction historical thriller with wine as the prize. All you need to know about wine is what most people know: Wine is part of the French soul. It is not merely a drink or a product. It is more important than all the perfumes and fashions and cheeses put together. Even those funny cars the French make that look like vacuum cleaners. Nothing in American cultural life has similar status.
At the outset of World War II France suffered the shame and disgrace not of defeat but of total collapse. She had the world's largest army--one that gave the Germans pause, in fact-- and yet somehow was under the Nazi jackboot in about six weeks. Naturally, the Nazis set about to systematically loot the country.
Here I'd like to ask a question I've not seen asked before: the Nazis took it as written that they and their culture were absolutely superior to everyone else in the world. Why then their unbridled need to steal the cultural riches of all the nations they conquered? Some booty was sold to finance the war, but most of the cultural treasures--France's wines and artworks, for example--were stolen merely out of greed and jealousy.
When it came to looting France's wines, the Nazis were well-organized. They appointed experts called weinfuhrers to organize the theft, much of which was conducted under a charade of legality: The Nazis overvalued the mark, devalued the franc, closed all other export markets, told the producers what their prices would be and ordered them to sell the wine. Here Don and Petie Kladstrups unveil the amazingly inbred world of wine, in which everbody of importance seems to be related to, married to or employed by someone else of equal importance. As the authors show, this meant the weinfuhrers were sometimes as loyal to France as to Germany.
The winemakers resisted as often as they could and perpetrated many frauds on the Nazis. They saved a fair amount of their greatest wines and sold the Wehrmacht as much plonk as they could get away with. The Kladstrups tell how--and in doing so they have rescued a small but important piece of history. The New Europe leans toward institutional forgetfulness today--and so does France herself. Memories of collaboration intrude all too easily, and these are followed by nettlesome ambiguities and doubts. Ratting on your neighbor was collaboration, but so was trading with the Nazis--even when you had no choice. Marshal Petain, head of the Vichy government was condemned at war's end and DeGaulle hailed as a hero--but surely it was easier to be heroic in London?
There are a couple of minor factual errors and a couple of anecdotes that aren't credible, but most of this complicated but absorbing tale rings true. Some scenes the Kladstrups re-create are slyly amusing, a few are comic and many--the best of themn--are intensely moving. These were proud people, remember, whose faces were ground into the dirt by brutish conquerors every day. For five years they struggled desperately to save their lives and their families, their self-respect and their hope for a future.
It's a hell of a story.
31 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 France's most coveted treasure 9 avril 2002
Par Michael K. McKeon - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is an engrossing, and distinctive observation on one of the many impacts of World War II on both France and Germany. It is not simply a book about French wine, but a broader study of the impact of the German occupation upon French daily life. What is fascinating is how much the Germans coveted French cuisine, and especially wine, and how gluttony inspired the Nazi government's quest to strip the French larder as part of spoils of war. "Wine and War" does indicate what a highly regarded treasure French wine represents in Western culture.
This is a terrific read if you like wine or enjoy history (and is twice the pleasure for those, like me, who appreciate both). It is not a serious, scholarly history of the war, but instead a compilation of various anecdotes -- oral history being put into print. From a historical perspective, what I found the most interesting was the author's indication of how the legacy of the harsh reparations extracted from Germany by France in World War I came back to haunt the French in terms of the German thirst for revenge in the Second World War. There is an element of suspense throughout the book, in terms of the Germans possibly killing the goose that laid the golden eggs (though the reader already knows the outcome). However, the work manages to represent that beyond the greed and thuggery of some Germans, a number maintained a sense of humanity and long range vision regarding a people who would always remain their neighbors.
You won't learn alot about wine reading this book; you will learn more about history. But what you will learn about French wine is what a covetted treasure this has regarded in any of the German-French conflicts, and what a critical part of French culture it represents.
33 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating read--but I wanted a bit more. 29 mai 2002
Par P. J Lambert - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Having traveled throughout many of the areas covered by the Kladstrups in this remarkable book, I was captured by the not-often told history of the vineyards during World War II. While certainly not expecting a weighty academic tome about the French-German parley over the wine business, I certainly enhanced my appetite to learn more about the actual mechanics of the murky business dealings between the German occupiers (many of whom were pre-war acquaintances of the vintners themselves) and the French vintners.
The book is an easy read; and while history has obfuscated the difference between those in the French Resistance, and those who 50 years ex post facto claim to have been part of the Resistance, I believe the Kladstrups made an honest effort to provide a semblance of balance.
But for those of us who love French wine, the stories of how precious stores of vintage wines were hidden from the Nazis are truly remarkable. I would have loved to have seen a couple of more chapters towards the end of the book, demonstrating how the vineyards got back on their feet, and more importantly, how the pre-war German-French relationships were reestablished.
If you are looking for a good summertime read, this book is for you. A very casual and enjoyable read.
41 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Breezy Anecdotes 24 juillet 2002
Par Kurt Harding - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I wasn't looking for some grand new revelations about WWII when I bought this book and I didn't get any. What I did get was an easy-to-read series of inspirational stories and breezy anecdotes about how French vignerons managed to keep their livelihoods and some of their wines at a time when the outcome of the war was very much in doubt.
There is a decidedly pro-French slant to the stories, most of the Germans are made to look like bumbling Colonel Klinks and the French are mostly portrayed as patriotic tools of or members of the Resistance, cleverly hobbling German designs at every turn. To be fair, some Germans are singled out as "righteous gentiles", but these are never Mein Kampf-believing Nazis.
What I like is what I learned about the wine business. There are all sorts of little tidbits about how winemakers can adulterate wine, mislabel wine, and generally fool the general wine-consuming public, not to mention the Wehrmacht. But the book is also filled with tales of winemaking as a craft and a labor of love.
The climax of the book is foreshadowed in the beginning, when French troops were racing to be first to Hitler's Eagles Nest to get a crack at repatriating the fine wines they knew were there.
American readers who were there might well be annoyed by the feeling that the French High Command thought more about rescuing the wine than they did about helping to finish off the Nazis.
That aside, if you love wine as well as stories of good guys outsmarting the bad, then you should enjoy Wine and War.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The invasion of the wine snatchers 16 juillet 2001
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Very early in WINE & WAR we are given a description of the bucolic and pastoral life that French winegrowers enjoyed. It was a life "of legend and myth, a life which, in many ways, had changed little since the middle ages...plowing was done with horses. Planting, picking, and pruning were done according to the phases of the moon. Older people often reminded younger ones that the merits of pruning were discovered when St.Martin's donkey got loose in the vineyards." The authors have woven together winegrowers tales, geography, viticulture science and French culture to give us a very enjoyable history of "the kingdom of wine" during WWII.
Winemaking had a history of troubles even before the war. Phylloxera, an insect that attacked the vines roots, nearly wiped out the industry in the mid 19th century; the Depression followed and then destruction from the trench warfare and artillery barrages of the "Great War". The book reveals an interesting fact about assistance America provided. We know the French are grateful for our fighting on the battlefields during both wars, but some help is probably still a bit hard to swallow. During the Phylloxera blight "the remedy was something totally un-French. Growers discovered that by grafting their vines onto American rootstocks, which were naturally resistant to the root eating louse, they could save them." Lest this fact cause us to swell with pride, the authors tell a humorous story of sacrilege committed by an American Colonel, sufficient to embarrass wine lovers everywhere. After an Allied operation near the Rhone river, the French, in gratitude presented some of Burgundy's finest wines to the Americans. Being naturally hospitable we invited French soldiers and their General to share. The "waiters marched in bearing the bottles on silver trays [the bottles] were bubbling gently"; the Colonel had ordered the wine be served hot, heating it with medical alcohol. The authors say that the French General "faced with the greatest crisis so far in Franco-American relations" nevertheless drained his glass but "murmured, 'Liberation, liberation, what crimes have been commited in thy name!'".
Humorous anecdotes and tales of bizarre behavior are scattered throughout and are used to show how the French had an all consuming passion for preserving their national treasure. The account of Operation Anvil is a perfect example. French and American troops were to attack from southern France, through the Rhone Valley and Burgundy, and link up with the Allies pushing out from Normandy. The operation was frought with delays. Perhaps its unofficial name offers an explanation. The Champagne Campaign went through parts of France renown for food, drink, scenery, and entertainment. Some strategic decisions also played a role. French General Monsabert (the same one who suffered the hot libation for liberation's sake) ensured that no more crimes were committed. He planned some attacks and it was no coincidence that the French "advanced up the western side of the Rhone, where the best vineyards were planted. The Americans went up the other side, where the lesser growths were." The French seriousness about their wine is highlighted by the fact that an intelligence Colonel delayed an attack on the Cote d'Or or the Golden Escarpment - the site of Burgundy's best vineyards - until he received a report that "we have found the weak point[s] in the German defenses. Every one is on a vineyard of inferior quality."
There were other threats that were not military. Economic crimes were committed that were perhaps even a greater disaster to winemaking. The book tells about the Weinfuhrers; former German businessmen, who, knowing the wine industry, were commissioned into the Army and sent to France for the sole purpose of administering the shipment of wine to Germany. They operated from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. There are chapters describing the massive shipments of wine to Germany, and how the French responded by hiding the best vintages, and fobbing off lesser quality wines. This section of the book deals with the intriguing economics of the business. Economic conditions grew worse as the war turned against Germany. More and more was demanded from France: wine, food, farm horses, metals, supplies, and eventually men to work in Germany. The French turned on the Vichy government, president Petain and prime minister Laval and also began actively resisting Germany. The French Resistance, there from the beginning, became popular by 1943 following the setting up of the Service du Travail Obligatore (STO), a program of forced labor where men were sent to work in German industry. Germany also began using wine as a solvent and as industrial alcohol. To ensure that it was not sold or drunk, heating oil was added; this spoilt it for human consumption, but more than anything else, enraged the French.
WINE & WAR is well written and offers a unique look at France during WWII. It will be of interest to history buffs, fans of WWII military exploits, readers who don't mind economics and geography, and of course, wine lovers.
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