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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of patriotism and wine
This book was an unexpected delight! The truth of the exploits of the French to save their wine, their livelihood, and their country's identity during the Nazi Occupation of WWII is told from very individual perspectives. We learn of winemakers struggling to keep their vineyards alive despite a shortages of able-bodied men and copper sulfate, trampling by troops,...
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Book Brain

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3.0 out of 5 stars Breezy Anecdotes
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...
Published on July 24 2002 by Kurt Harding


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of patriotism and wine, Dec 4 2003
This review is from: Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (Paperback)
This book was an unexpected delight! The truth of the exploits of the French to save their wine, their livelihood, and their country's identity during the Nazi Occupation of WWII is told from very individual perspectives. We learn of winemakers struggling to keep their vineyards alive despite a shortages of able-bodied men and copper sulfate, trampling by troops, blackouts, droughts, and raiding Nazi soldiers. even if your knowledge of wine is minimal, names like Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Moet are likely to ring a bell. To understand the struggles that these families endured and often overcame becomes very real and understandable in the writings of the authors. The human toll of war as well as the economic costs are played against the unflagging spirit of the people and their love of the land, the wine, and their country. Not only is this a great story of wine and war but of patriotism as well. It has been convenient to belittle the French in recent times relative to their attitude about war, but this book reminds us that they endured something we were fortunate never to have to deal with -- enemy occupation and the resultant destruction and demoralization.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting albeit insubstantial story, Oct. 5 2003
By 
chefdevergue (Spokane, WA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (Paperback)
If you want a good World War II history, then this is not the book for you. In fact, if you don't love wine, you won't find this book to be all that interesting at all. In the larger context of history, one could charitably call this a history of one of the many dimensions of the German occupation of France & the French resistance.
It is a fascinating portrayl of the wine-making industry & its subculture, and is an intriguing example of how far some people were willing to go to protect, in the final analysis, a bunch bottles of fermented grape juice. The french & the germans involved in this story are patriots, collaborators & sympathetic occupiers. There stories can be found by the thousands outside of the world of wine. The only distinction is that the french attach such importance to their wines, which give them a sense of their national identity.
As befits a largely insubstantial topic, the book is a quick and easy read. The authors are not trying to impart some Great Message, but are simply trying to tell a pretty interesting tale. It is enjoyable enough to merit 4 stars, but would need more substance for a 5th star.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Breezy Anecdotes, July 24 2002
By 
Kurt Harding "bon vivant" (Boerne TX) - See all my reviews
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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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully palatable, July 12 2002
This review is from: Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (Paperback)
What a fascinating book. The story of the vignerons and their participation in the French Resistance during WWII is immensely palatable and its anecdotal style makes it a pleasure to read. The authors have stumbled across a rich wine and have let the reader inhale its bouquet to the full.
We hear many stories of bravery. For example, Gaston Huet, who spent most of the war in a POW camp, and his organisation of a wine celebration that covered an escape but also gave great heart to those whose horticultural life had been ripped apart by an an occupying army whose senior intent was to milk France of its greatest produce. The race to hide some of the wine regions greatest vintages from the Germans provides some of occupied Frnace's most amusing and fearful stories. We gain an insight to life under the occupation, the food shortages experienced, and the daily dangers, but, above all, we understand the sense of unity that developed amongst those seeking to preserve France's greatest treasure.
Through the stories we learn of the weinfuhrers - men like Klaebisch and Gomer - who were tasked by Berlin to keep a crippling supply of wine and champagne sent to Germany, but who recognised that Goring's wish to strip France of all its wealth would leave a devastated land. These men sought to work with those remaining to produce the wine whilst suffering from the increasing actions of the Resistance who destroyed and stole many shipments of wine and food - the constant letters of Henri Galliard testify to this. Amidst the stories of a people struggling to survive and preserve the great wines of France we see how it played a greater part in the war - for example, large orders to ship to certain fronts indicated where German offensives would commence - right up to the preservation of Paris when the German's left. The only item they destroyed was a wine storage facility.
The authors have combined to produce a lively popular history of France's wine regions during WWII and it anecdotal style makes this a pleasure to read. Immensely fascinating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read--but I wanted a bit more., May 28 2002
By 
P. J Lambert "pjlambert" (United States) - See all my reviews
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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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars France's most coveted treasure, April 9 2002
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable reading; wanted a bit more, Jan. 12 2002
By 
William A. Riski (Washington D.C.) - See all my reviews
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As an American in France, one of my areas of interest is the similarities and differences between our peoples and cultures. And both wine and war certainly set us apart. Everyone realizes wine is a significant part of the French culture, though few understand why. And we Americans are fortunate to have (almost) always been victorious in war. It's very difficult to appreciate each other's points of view on war when the French have been invaded on their home turf so many times. Not us.
So I found this book provided just a bit more insight into both areas. Helped to lift the fog a bit about the French. While you'll learn a little about wine from this book, it doesn't really scratch the surface in that regard, though I doubt it intended to. (If you want to do that, go read the DK guidebook 'French Wines: The Essential Guide to the Wines and Wine Growing Regions of France.) But I thought the Kladstrup's did a good job providing some insights into the role wine played - and still does - in the French culture. This is not so much a book about Paris and city life as the rest of France. It's about an agricultural industry's fight to survive during the suicidal years of Europe in the last century.
Several of the other reviewers have done a good job describing the books contents. I'll just end by saying I would have preferred a more in-depth treatment of the French - German relationships. But given the sensitive nature of talking to the few remaining survivors and families about what still is a certainly painful memory for the French, I think Don and Petie Kladstrup did a good job in producing a pleasant read on a somewhat unique topic. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the glass of French wine I poured myself while sitting down to write this review. Recommended (both the book and my wine!)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Small topic stretched too far, Jan. 2 2002
By 
Daniel McMillan (West Linn, OR USA) - See all my reviews
I enjoyed this book, but...The topic struck me as more suited for a long magazine article rather than a 250-plus page book. Many of the incidents are fascinating. The wine fete at a POW camp was interesting as was the story about Uncle Louis, a prominent wine power broker who may or may-not-have-been a collaborator.
But the authors spend a bit too much time emphasizing how important wine is too France. On one hand we get the point; on the other hand the repeated claims make me wonder if the point is being stretched too far. I'm sure wine is and was very important to the French character, but outside of the vineyards how many people really saw it as something worth dying for? Maybe many, but I wonder.
The other complaint is that the authors tend to take the point of view that anyone involved with wine must be good. The chapter on the weinfurhers was very good, but the story of one such individual seemed rather diluted.
Worth a read if you love the subject of wine, but be prepared to have your attention wander.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial research., Dec 16 2001
By 
"pabru" (Stamford, Connecticut USA) - See all my reviews
As compared to "The Algeria Hotel", which covers the same period, this book is almost naive in its coverage of WW2, the Resistance and the relation the French had with the Germans.
The purpose of the book is to demonstrate that by hiding their wine, the French were "resisting". This is as false as the claims in the years after WW2 that the French resistance, the heroic Maquis, had defeated the German occupation. The American army defeated the Germans and liberated France. And the overwhelming majority of the French "collaborated", actively or passively with the Germans. The reason the French winegrowers hid their wine was of pure economics, and egotistical business. (No one is more avaricious than the French peasants.) I'm not sure I blame them for preserving their estates. But to claim this was done for patriotic reasons is disingenuous, extremely disingenuous. One of the features of French who try to hide their "collaboration" is to claim that they "saved a Jew". Even the apologists for Petain and Laval will tell you that their goal was to save the "French Jews", but not the refugee Jews who were in Vichy France. Which is completely false. As false as the legend that all French fought in the Resistance. Even when they have medals, the medals of the Liberation. Any doubts? How about Papon, who claimed that he was just a bureaucrat signing papers to send Jews and French patriots to concentration camps.
The Kladstrups have swallowed, hook, line and sinker the lies of the French.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Diluted, lacks balance, Oct. 29 2001
By 
Keith Levenberg (Washington, D.C.) - See all my reviews
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I honestly don't know what to make of this book. On the one hand, it contains fascinating stories, and is an inspiring account of people so devoted to their country and its "greatest treasures" that many risked everything to protect them. But the book leaves an unsettling aftertaste. It forgives too readily (and often overlooks) those who protected their interests not by resisting the Nazis but by capitulating to them.
An anecdote. When I visited a major Cognac producer some summers ago, the house's tour leader explained how its ancient stores of brandy had survived the Nazi occuation of France: They had not been looted because the owners had "made a deal" with the Nazis. One wonders how many innocent deaths that deal and others like it had underwritten. Such treachery is more integral to the story of Vichy France than the resistance of those who hid treasures (and even people) in cellars and caves. But the Kladstrups only barely acknowledge this dark history.
Where the narrative does strive for balance, it instead achieves a confusing schizophrenia. In one chapter the "weinfuhrer" of Bordeaux (a chief bureaucrat of the occupying Nazis) seems almost noble, acting as virtuously as possible within the constraints of the leviathan to which he was indentured. But a later chapter conveys enough evidence of his deceit and villainy that one concludes he is no different from the typical Nazi beast. These conflicting perspectives do not appear to reflect
the complexity of the man; rather, it seems the two authors were simply unable to agree on what position to take, and careless editing neglected to synthesize the various accounts.
The book is well worth the read. But it has little value as a work of history and almost none as a morality tale.
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