“I am always surprised by how few books there are about people in wine. Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars used to say wine was about the three “Gs”, the grapes, the guys and the ground. Books on grapes and ground are aplenty, but books about the guys are rare.
There is one book which for me demonstrates how important the story of the “guys” is, and how their passion and protectiveness shape wineries and regions. Behind the labels we drink are communities and families for whom wine is not just a product. “Wine and War”, by Don and Petie Kladstrup, tells the story of the French wine producers who went to extraordinary lengths to protect their crops and bottles from the Germans. The book was first published in 2001, but it is still available and well worth searching out for its remarkable stories.
Among them: Eight-year-old Robert Drouhin was sent by his father to collect spiders to weave webs across the wall his father and mother built to hide their most valuable wine – the webs immediately made the walls look older. Then there was the courageous Madame Gaby, who enlisted the help of several people to hide the more precious bottles of Lafite, including the classic 1797, in the cellars of neighbouring châteaux and then with extraordinary presence of mind “cooked the books” night after night, transferring the ownership of Lafite’s wines away from the older generation of Rothschilds, who had escaped France, to the brothers Alain and Elie; they were prisoners of war and therefore their property was protected by the Geneva Convention and could not be touched. Jean Miaihle set up a very primitive laboratory at Château Coufran to make anti-mildew-treatment copper sulfate under the noses of the Germans, swapping wine for copper, but unaware that his scrap-metal supplier had stolen the metal from the Germans. Bernard de Nonancourt of Laurent-Perrier entered Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at war’s end to discover half a million bottles from every legendary vintage.
Wine is more than just taste, it is also part of our history, and this book is a great reminder. Well worth a read.”
ABOUT SARAH KEMP
Much appreciated 67 Pall Mall Member, Sarah Kemp is recognised as one of the top experts in the wine industry, and a Bordeaux specialist. She was at Decanter for 32 years, more than 20 years as Managing Director. She launched the Decanter World Wine Awards, which became the world’s largest wine competition. Her passion for wine started as a teenager, through books. I dare describing her as a unique charismatic personality, with an insatiable knowledge and curiosity about wines, and a remarkable Bordeaux analyst. Should you meet her in the Club, do ask her about her favourite book!