BOOK REVIEW:

Wine & War

Joseph.Rosenberg
Wine & War Reveals French Vineyard Insubordination toward Nazis
Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure

by Don Kladstrup, Petie Kladstrup, J. Kim Munholland (Contributor)
Broadway Books; ISBN: 0767904478

I just finished reading Wine & War by Don and Petie Kladstrup. This is an excellent telling of how the French wine community dealt with the Nazis from 1939-1945. The book traces the activities of various French families and German weinfuhrers during World War II. It’s simple and easy to understand, with understated but powerful prose. I know I believed many of the French, especially those in the wine trade ,were collaborators. Now I know that trading with the Germans through the weinfuhrers not only protected lives and stocks, but also provided bases of operation for the Resistance and in many cases supplied the Germans with some awful wines.

The book illuminates an era that was a crucible for our world, and provides great perspective on everyday life of an occupied people. I wonder now: what was the Italian experience for winemakers during that era? I recall conversations with the late Renato Ratti, the Currados of Vietti, Pio Boffa, Count Ugo Buonacossi, Peter Pasolini and Angelo Gaja about their families’ roles in the Resistance, but I was too busy drinking and eating to remember too much.

What was needed was writers like the Kladstrups to check out this story, for in it there are great similarities with wineries’ walling up their better wines to keep them from the Germans. (A situation that is now reversed, if you have ever competed with our Rhineland friends for a special bottle in a ristorante in Verona or Siena or a booth in Vinitaly—but that's another story....)

Little by little, we Americans are realising that World War II was not just John Wayne plots against Hitler and GI Joe. Another dimension in the struggle against Fascism is finally being brought into our consciousness. For this I raise my glass to the Huets, Hugels and other families mentioned in this book.

L'Chaim!

 


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This story was published on November 7, 2001.