Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and France’s Greatest Treasure, Don and Petie Kladstrup, (Coronet Books, paperback, 2001)
Although Adolf Hitler is known to have disliked wine, many if not most of the German military officers and men did. Having invaded and occupied France in 1940, the German army quickly seized vast quantities of bottles and barrels and shipped them back to the fatherland. French vineyards were controlled and assigned quotas of new product to be given over to the conquerors, and much acreage was converted into war production. It became increasingly difficult to meet the German demands, as labor, livestock, and equipment were conscripted away from the remaining vineyards, and food and fuel were strictly rationed.
Although some French vintners went along with orders, many more resisted as best they could. They hid precious inventories in caves or cellars sealed off with false or camouflaged walls, diluted or corrupted what they handed over, or resorted to other subterfuges with daring, cleverness, and resourcefulness. Resistance here as elsewhere carried risks of imprisonment or death, however, and some resistors died for their efforts.
Don and Petie Kladstrup tell the story of this dark and little-known chapter of World War II in their Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and France’s Greatest Treasure, present stories of heroes and villains on both sides, including collaborators among the French and protectors among the Germans, and sketch the role wine played in previous military campaigns, such as the Napoleonic and First World Wars. The book is entertaining as well as informative.
The book review above was originally published in a feature titled “Book Notes”, published in the March, 2011 edition of Amitié, the newsletter of Normandy Allies, Inc. This note was written by Walter Ford Carter, member of the Normandy Allies Board and the team that leads its history-study experience each summer. Walter, the son of Captain Elmer Norval Carter, a US Army battalion surgeon in the 29th Division who was killed in action on June 17 1944, is the author of No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love: A Son’s Journey to Normandy.