5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Wine Triumphs over War,
This review is from: Wine and War: The French, the Nazis and France's Greatest Treasure (Paperback)
Historical accounts, and memoirs of WWII abound ... but this is the first book I've encountered that focused on the events and circumstances regarding the effects of the war on France's premiere vineyards, winemaking families, and the fate of vast cellars of wines (millions of bottles) that lay ripe for plunder ... and the people who took refuge there.
Before now, I'd seen some direct and indirect references to the massive looting of wine documented in various books and movies on the period ... such as the scene in Steven Ambrose's Band of Brothers in which Easy company uncovers a massive cache of looted vintage luxury champagne in Hitler's Berchtesgaden/Eagle's Nest complex - only to discover that most of it tasted inexplicably like swill. This book not only explains WHY, it also explains who stole them and how those bottles came to be there in the first place.
It's a great book - told as a series of interconnected accounts based on interviews conducted by the authors with winemakers and veterans of the underground resistance who lived (and suffered) though it all.
The storytelling is gripping, fast paced, and, at times, takes on some of the amusing qualities of "Hogan's Heroes", as we see desperate (but oh so clever) winemakers and resistance fighters repeatedly put one over on the occupying forces bent on milking them dry and outright looting them blind. We see massive caves of wines, walled up and hidden from the invaders, we see poor vintages re-labeled as great ones and sold/given to oneologically clueless officers tasked with shipping stolen wines back to Germany ... and we see what happened to those who got caught doing so.
Fiction, even at it's best, sometimes can't hold a candle to some of the crazy (and terrible) things that have already happened in real life.
Highly recommended. The mark of a good book is that it totally immerses you, and won't let go ... and it makes you look for ways to find the time to get back into it, when real life tears you away.
P.S. Be sure to look for the Kladstup's other book on Champagne.
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Initial post: Feb 26, 2009 11:30:25 PM PST
BTW, the aforementioned book is "Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times."
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2011 10:06:07 AM PDT
Lee Gaffrey says:
I too enjoyed Wine & War. However, as to which units arrived at Eagle's Nest first, according to "Band of Brothers" E Company, 101st Airborne, arrived at this place and were well into the wines before the French showed up. Did the French revise history to show they arrived first?
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