Wine Books: Don & Petie Kladstrup
The Kladstrups write on the history of wine. They kicked off with the fascinating Wine & War, before moving on to focus how conflict has affected the Champagne region in their 2006 release, Champagne.
Don and Petie Kladstrup have followed on from their highly successful Wine and War with this tome, subtitled How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times, which develops the theme looking mostly at the effect of war, but also at other historical events that have shaped the Champagne region into what it is today. The pair make a passing reference to Attila the Hun, who camped here in the 5th Century, but otherwise the story really begins in 1638 with the birth of both Louis XIV and of course Dom Pérignon. The first of many characters to grace the pages of the book, their tales are told in well written prose, perhaps somewhat emotional in style, but never failing to bring forth the tales of the principal players in a most evocative fashion. The story of Champagne Charlie and his exploits in America alone make this book a must-read.
The second half of the book deals with the effects of war in the early 20th Century, starting with World War I, when workers risked their lives for the sake of the vines and the fruit they bore. Then came Prohibition, and finally a little of World War II, which seems to receive short shrift, squeezed in at the end of the book. Perhaps the authors feel this has been adequately covered in Wine & War. This abrupt finish should not, however, distract from the research the duo have undertaken which is impressive, the book being fully referenced. And yet it is never heavy-going, maintaining an easy-reading style throughout. I must confess sometimes I wonder what draws them to the subject, as the one moment (no doubt there were many such moments during their research, but they are not described in the book) when they describe actually coming to the wine itself – having been invited to a tasting of vins clairs by Claude Taittinger – they seem wholly out of sorts. Nevertheless, the world of wine writing is certainly richer for their contributions; this is another recommended book from the Kladstrups.
Don Kladstrup, a US journalist, and his wife Petie, a freelance writer, have set about gathering an impressive collection of what are essentially anecdotal reports regarding wine-related activities during World War II. In many places these are heartfelt accounts from famous names of the French wine business, such as the Hugels of Alsace, the Drouhins of Burgundy, Gaston Huet of the Loire, the Miaihles of Château Pichon-Lalande, and so on. In others they are wine-related tales - for example, how the Maquis (French Resistance) were smuggled across France's internal borders within wine barrels, which had to be assembled around them, a process that took two hours. They have loosely interweaved these tales in a chronological format, flitting from one account to another, as the war years progress, with some chapters coming away at a tangent to discuss the role of the Weinführers, for instance, or how life was for the PoWs. This all makes for an enthralling read, but the Kladstrups have sensitively intermingled tales that fascinate and inspire with those that more truly reflect the reality of living in an occupied country. Fear, deceit, courage, tyranny, malnutrition and death all play a part. Well recommended.