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Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,038 ratings  ·  398 reviews
The remarkable untold story of France's courageous, clever vinters who protected and rescued the country's most treasured commodity from German plunder during World War II.

"To be a Frenchman means to fight for your country and its wine."
-Claude Terrail, owner, Restaurant La Tour d'Argent

In 1940, France fell to the Nazis and almost immediately the German army began a camp
Paperback, 290 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by Broadway Books (first published 2001)
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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,038 ratings  ·  398 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

A poorly organized tribute to French winemakers who risked their lives to save their bottled wine and beloved crops during World War II.
Feb 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: World War II buffs, Wine lovers
I love history books that approach a large topic, such as the Depression, or the American Revolution, or, in this case World War II, from a very specific point of view. That's what this book does. The French wine industry, long renowned for its outstanding beverages, also played a significant part in the economic and social climate of the war. Books like this, books with a very specific focus, are the best way to learn about history. You'll get more from a book like this than you will just about ...more
Dec 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: wine lovers, history buffs
Shelves: non-fiction
The concept of this book is original and interesting, and is what initially got me reading it. It tells the story of various French winemakers and associated individuals as they struggled with German occupation through WWII. It's short (250 pages), easy to read, and generally interesting to anyone who enjoys wine, French culture, or wants to read an interesting take on WWII history.

While generally entertaining and somewhat engrossing, the biggest issue I had was the choppy storytelling. The auth
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In no way must one be a wine afficionado to enjoy this wonderful book. What one must have is an appreciation of the culture of France, an important part of which is their wine. A symbol of national pride, wine was just one of many victims of the devastation wroght by World War II. From the common soldier all the way to the highest officials of the Nazi party, Germany pilfered France of their prized treasure. Hitler (who didn't even particularly like wine) stockpiled thousands of cases of "requis ...more
Elizabeth K.
Jul 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-new-reads
When I first read reviews of this, there was an awful lot of gushing about how magnificent it was that the French had doggedly withheld much of their best wines from the Germans during the occupation, often by hiding it in cellars and secret rooms, and as much as I like wine, I couldn't help but note that perhaps people who had the wherewithal to hide stuff from the Germans might have focused their energies on hiding other things as well. My interest was caught enough, though, that I picked this ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: winos
Shelves: kitchen
It's hard to understand how important the wine is to the French; perhaps the best analogy would be how important sport is to us Americans. With too few male sluggers to form a baseball league while liberating the French, we pinch-hit the ladies. This book covers how the winemakers of France covered their cherished fields during far greater deprivations.

The challenge for amateur historians and husband and wife team Don and Petie Kladstrup is how to balance the routine horror of Vichy France, with
Daniel Simmons
Oct 25, 2015 rated it liked it
A diverting, anecdote-rich account of wine protecting and selling (and swilling, and squirreling away, and replacing cleverly with plonk) during the Second World War.
May 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Three+ stars. If you don't like wine -- especially French wine -- you will not enjoy this book. This is far more about French wine than anything else. (And how the French make the best wine.) I like French wine and champagne and enjoy reading WW2-era books, so I did enjoy this book.
Tracy Sherman
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was much like drinking a nice glass of wine, there is a lot that I enjoyed and there's a lot that I didn't understand, wine names and place names but nothing that interfered with the pleasure of the book.
I always admired wine geeks, seem like something that
every adult should be aware of. Unfortunately it has always escaped me, but a friend of mine at my bookclub is one and I can see that kind of enjoyment it gives him.
By a kind of weird twist of fate of whoever watches over t
Jerry B
Jan 13, 2012 rated it liked it
We have probably read 700-800 books over the past decade, maybe seven or eight of which have been non-fiction! But knowing we were wine aficionados, a friend lent us this historical account of how the French vintners struggled to save their wineries, their precious wine cellars, and of course, even their lives for that matter during the German occupation of France during WWII. The book reflects extensive research, and much of the anecdotal narrative recounts stories garnered by the authors direc ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Just when you thought all the WWII books had been written - along comes a new angle. I thought this was a fascinating look at the futility of the Hitler regime - exemplified by the systematic looting of French wine to stockpile his Eagle's Nest..despite the fact that Hitler did not even like wine. Or the 3 year effort to tunnel up a mountain for an elevator shaft to carry the wine to the Eagle's nest - later rendered useless by retreating Nazis. The Nazis come off as a group of boorish thugs in ...more
Oct 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, france
Disappointing book, especially as I had been looking forward to reading it for awhile; it does, after all, combine two things I love – wine and war . . .I mean wine and France. The book does include some truly interesting anecdotes about wine and winemakers in France during the Second World War. Otherwise I found the writing style annoying - especially the bland declarative sentences which serve as an opening to each chapter, and the cheesy made-up/dramatized dialogue, which didn't ring true (al ...more
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it
This book is a fairly standard World War II home-front narrative, focused on the view from wine-producing regions of France. As can be expected from a wine-focused narrative, it had just enough hints of enophile nonsense in its boquet (see what I did there?) to put me off quite a bit, but there were some redeeming anecdotes in it.

It did somewhat remind me of a better book, A Foreign Fiekd by Ben Macintyre, which is the story of stranded Americans hiding from the Germans during World War I. It
Jun 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This nonfiction book tells how French winemakers protected their wine and vines from the Nazis during WWII. It took me a few chapters to get into the story because it was difficult for me to keep all the French names straight, and I was too focused on understanding what part of France was being described. Once I let all that go and read it only for the stories, it became interesting (and eventually it was very easy to keep who, where and when straight). This is an interesting part of the history ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
An interesting look at the French wine industry during WWII. Provides some insight into how people cope with an occupation, what it means to resist and collaborate and the attitudes of an occupier when the combatants are neighbors.

However, it is a bit light on history when the authors drift from the main topic, making some rather odd assertions (like the impact of mistresses on foreign and defense policy) with no analysis. I would guess this is more a defect of the type of history this is: easi
Sandra D
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lively, engaging story of French winemakers' efforts to protect their legacy and livelihood from greedy Nazi invaders, though probably of more interest to oenophiles than others. Ironically, my favorite wine is a nice dry Riesling from Germany.
Bonnie Walker
Aug 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an interesting enough book but it really never had me where I couldn't put it down. Since the story never really pulled me in I felt lost sometimes among the many people discussed in the book.
Sep 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book had some very interesting stories in it. Unfortunately, the author jumps around a lot, especially back and forth through time. I got so frustrated with the jumping that I put it down twice and I don't know that I have the patience to finish the book.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm not much for nonfiction, but this goes down easily. Informative, by turns light-hearted and moving (that ending line, though!), and may have inspired me to drink a bit more than I ought this week. Vive la France!
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii, europe, commodities
A fascinating slice of WWII history focusing on the German occupation of France. The backbone of the story centers on the fight to control Frances's most precious commodity which is also the cornerstone to much of its culture and way of life: wine. The Occupation left many French in the unenviable predicament of having to find a way to survive while holding onto their way of life and means of survival living in a war zone. Wine fueled economic independance for the rural French and was central to ...more
Katia Morim
Voilà un document intéressant, mais malheureusement un peu superficiel, dans la mesure où l'on a plus affaire à une suite d'anecdotes classées chronologiquement qu'à un véritable travail historique sur le vin en France pendant la Seconde guerre mondiale. Néanmoins il est intéressant d'apprendre que l'armée allemande avait nommé dans chaque région viticole française des Weinfurer chargés de contrôler la production des vignobles français et de piller méthodiquement leurs caves.
Julie M
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Donna, Chris
A good view into French society and the vital role winemaking and individual families played throughout the country during the German occupation. I learned a lot about France during WWII-- its resistance, patriotism and collaboration. An education (for me) about the widespread importance of the wine trade in France from its earliest history to modern time.
Janie Gibson
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book surprised me with how interesting it was. I was not particularly interested in wine but found that the subject was absolutely riveting. it revealed how hard the French had had to fight to save their wine industry from destruction by the Nazis. The lengths they went to and the difficulties they faced revealed aspects of the war that I had never event thought about such as the Germans taking not only their young men but their horses and trainloads of wine. Some families had had to change ...more
Kate Endres
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Certainly an insightful story and different perspective on a World War II story. It would be best for someone who knows their wine - I found some of the jumping around confusing as I didn't know these names and houses.

Still an enjoyable read.
Ben Kester
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This was on a long list of Rick Steves book recommendations for French culture and history. Several of the stories were touching, and it will inspire you to pop open a Merlot.

However, the book lacked consistency. You read about celebrations over half a glass of wine in a German prisoner camp. Then slog through courtroom accounts of whether a particular winemaker conspired with the Germans. It was difficult to tell where one story picked up and another began.

I listened to the Audible version but
Pamela (slytherpuff)
Review originally posted at Bettering Me Up.

"To be a Frenchman means to fight for your country and its wine."
–Claude Terrail, owner, Restaurant La Tour d’Argent

I received this book from my grandfather (?) a decade ago. I wish I had read it when he was still alive so I could talk to him about the events in this book. Like me, he was a Francophile and we shared stories of the different trips we took around France. He fought in WWII, but never spoke about his time code-breaking. I wonder if discuss
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Perhaps because the French capitulated so early in World War II, there seems to not have been that many prominent books about WWII France. At least I have not come across them. The ones I have seen center on German activities/strategies/atrocities or D-Day or come from the British/American perspective.

This book was incredibly enlightening (for me) as to what went on in France during the Occupation. The writers did an excellent job of tracking down key players in the wine trade and learning their
Margaret Sankey
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Going back to the invasion of Napoleonic France (when the Widow Cliquot shamed Russians into buying champagne rather than looting it--and created an international brand in the process), the French government and people involved in the wine industry knew that the materials, land and stores of French wine were significant cultural and economic treasures requiring protection--for morale, as well as the potential survival of the expertise and means to restart production after the war. The Kladstrups ...more
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I think a bit better editing and this little gem would be 5 stars. The story of the struggle between the French people through the vignerons and Nazis and their incredible thirst for all things French (while at the same time seeking to destroy that culture) lends another dimension to the war story as well as the people story of WW2. There were certainly enough bad guys on the German side (most you can name without the book) but a few unlikely German heroes pop up too. And there are the French bo ...more
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Francophiles, oenophiles, WWII buffs
Recommended to Irene by: NPR
Shelves: non-fiction
I have a disappointing tendency to read books (or see movies) and eventually forget everything about them - even if I actually liked the book or movie. This is what happened with Wine and War, so I just re-read it.

It's good! Very approachable; you don't need to know much about WWII to follow along, and wine terminology is explained in context. At times it reads like a high school history paper, and at other times, I think, "This would make a great movie!" There's a cast of recurring characters t
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Goodreads Librari...: book cover missing 2 12 Oct 13, 2016 02:08PM  
What's the Name o...: Story about moving wine barrels stealthily [s] 8 44 May 18, 2013 02:57AM  
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“Monsieur de Villaine at Romanée-Conti, who believed that the winemaker was no more than an intermediary between the soil and the wine and that he should interfere as little as possible.” 2 likes
“To be a Frenchman means to fight for your country and its wine,” he said.” 2 likes
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