Wine & War

Wine & War – Review

Philip E. Hiaring

WINE & WAR. Don and Petie Kladstrup. ISBN 0-7679-0447-8. Broadway Books. 279 pages, illus. Hardcover, $24. Published May 2001.

Ordinarily, one doesn’t equate wine with war. I mean, can you imagine Napa winemakers making a stealth run down the Napa River to attack the Sonomans? Of course not. (Although you could make a frivolous case for sneaking up Nathanson’s Creek in Sonoma to capture Sebastiani.)

Actually, this book is about something more substantial, i.e., the problems French winemakers had with the invading Germans during World War II.

The hardships suffered by the French notwithstanding, this is a fun book in that it turned out the French got the best of the Germans more than once. True, some French Resistance people paid for their activities with their lives, and others were to the point of starvation due to German confiscatory policy.

What the reader learns is how plucky the French were. For example, our friend Jean Miaihle of Chateau Coufran learned how to make copper sulfate (Bordeaux mixture) at 16 to save his family’s vines from the mildews. We learn how the Gestapo raided Robert Drouhin’s home in Burgundy, searching for his father. The Hugels also are mentioned and were accused of being “too French” by a German officer. (Hugel is based in Alsace, which had been volleyed back and forth historically between France and Germany.)

There is no question many Germans behaved as louts, looting cellars (often getting the old switcheroo, crappy wine in lieu of good wine) and even shooting up some chateaux. I first visited Bordeaux in 1974 and was shown a bullet hole in a picture on the wall; I think it was at Ch. Latour.

It was fun to hear how some French winefolk would sneak onto unattended trains and siphon wine from barrels bound for Germany. It makes one think some of these Germans were total dolts. Or maybe they didn’t care.

There are so many great stories in this book that space doesn’t allow for full recounting. But can you imagine smuggling people back and forth in wine barrels? Yikes!

Or housing an U.S. airman in the same house with Germans, who didn’t know the Yank was there?

My favorite quote for the anti-American French and the snooty francophiles who adore them came from May-Eliane Miaihle de Lenquesang of Pichon-Lalande: “People say it was de Gaulle who liberated France, but he was nothing without the Americans.”

The book ends in a decidedly upbeat note. An old man was in the bar at the Hotel Meurice in Paris. He was Dietrich von Choltitz, former general in charge of Paris and ordered by Hitler to destroy that great city. Pierre Taittinger, then mayor of Paris, persuaded the general not to destroy the City of Light. The general told Claude Taittinger, Pierre’s son, that it was his father who persuaded him to disobey his commander-in-chief and not destroy Paris.

Wines & Vines recommends this book as a valuable addition to any serious wine library.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group