The title, Wine & War: The French, the Nazis & the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure (amazon.com) pretty much sums up this entire review. It’s fairly self-explanatory. Perhaps because I recognize chateaux and labels fairly easily, I paid almost no attention to the fact that the stories intertwined with wine estates and wine makers. But honestly, a reader at any level of wine knowledge will have no issue with this. To me, this felt as if it were simply a World War II book filled with incredible stories of struggle, resistance, and perseverance – which just so happened to be centered around wine.
The book bounced back and forth between stories of both French and Germans from all walks of wine-life – wine makers, negotiants, importers. French who were sent to German POW camps, French who led resistance movements, French who built walls in cellars to hide their quality wines.
The book also discussed the role of the Germans, intertwined in France’s wine industry during the war. While there was the obvious theft of millions of bottles of wine from the country, the reader also finds that Germany actually instituted their own people to oversee the wine regions of France to ensure that wines were truly purchased, and not stolen (though purchased with an incredibly overinflated Deutschmark), and the relationship treated with some level of respect.
It feels as if this will be a genre of book for an incredibly niche reader (such as myself) – history and wine rolled into one. While it may help to have some knowledge of French wine to glide through with full understanding of each region and chateau mentioned, it isn’t necessary. Instead, you’ll find yourself caught in captivating, and even innovative, struggles of survival and wartime interplay.