By Kori ~ February 25th, 2009.
A few years ago I read Don and Petie Kladstrup’s fascinating book, Wine and War, the story of how France’s winegrowers protected and preserved their wine industry from Nazi plunder during World War II. So, when Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 announced that February’s Wine Book Club selection was going to be another book by the Kladstrups, Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times, I didn’t want to miss out. Besides, I absolutely love bubbly and wanted to learn more about the who, what, when, and where of how it came to be.
Champagne covers some of the same information from World War II as Wine and War, but it also covers the history of the Champagne region going all the way back to the days of Attila the Hun. It’s a bloody history, but it is a great story of perseverance through not only wars but also through harsh weather, economic calamity, and pestilence. This is not a champagne tasting or champagne reviews book but a story of survival and ultimate prosperity.
“The greatest irony of all, however, is that Champagne, site of some of mankind’s bitterest battles, should be the birthplace of a wine the entire world equates with good times and friendship.”
A few of the more interesting stories in the book, aside from war after war after war, are the real story of the famous monk Dom Perignon (despite what many people think, he did not invent champagne), the breakthroughs in the production of “bubbly,” and the story of how the great caves, or crayeres, of Champagne were used as underground villages during the Great War.
Here are a few quotes from the book that I found particularly interesting. Some of these just might whet your appetite for more.
“No other wine, no other drink, had ever created, by its special qualities, a whole mood that almost amounted to a way of life.” –Hugh Johnson on champagne
“In victory you deserve it [champagne], in defeat you need it.” –Napoleon
“Possessing our beautiful vineyards would crown all their achievements. Throughout the centuries, through big invasions and smaller incursions, it has always been our wine that attracted the Germanic hordes. They know, perhaps even better than we do, what riches are at stake and what a civilizing force champagne represents. Our celebrated wine goes to every point of the planet with the joy, gaiety, and elegance for which we French are known.” –Writer Charles Moreau-Berillon when WWI began
“Of all the supplies sent to our army during the war, wine was surely the most highly anticipated and appreciated by soldiers.” –Marshal Philippe Petain, former commander-in-chief of the French army
If you like champagne and enjoy history, you’ll love this book. It’s available for the bargain price of $5.50 at Amazon right now.
When we visited France in 2003, we spent the majority of our time in Bordeaux and did not make it to Champagne. After reading Champagne, the Kladstrups have inspired me to put it on my list of wine destinations I must visit.
Have you already read Champagne? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.
For those of you who would like to read along with us in the Wine Book Club, the next two selections are:
March: Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch
April: The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass by Jamie Goode
Filed under: French Wine, Sparkling Wine, Wine Book Club, Wine Books